Pa­padopou­los faces leg­is­la­tors’ ques­tions

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - RUS­SIA PROBE By Karoun Demirjian

WASH­ING­TON » For­mer Trump cam­paign ad­viser Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los met with House law­mak­ers Thurs­day to an­swer ques­tions about his out­reach to Rus­sian of­fi­cials and con­tacts with in­di­vid­u­als who have be­come a fo­cus of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the pres­i­dent’s al­leged Rus­sia ties.

It is the first time that Pa­padopou­los, who was sen­tenced in Septem­ber to two weeks in jail for ly­ing to the FBI, has spo­ken to any of the con­gres­sional pan­els ex­am­in­ing as­pects of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in U.S. pol­i­tics. The­meet­ing was closed to the pub­lic.

Law­maker s have wanted to in­ter­view Pa­padopou­los for more than a year but were un­able to do so while he was co­op­er­at­ing with Mueller. He vol­un­teered to speak with con­gres­sional com­mit­tees af­ter his sen­tenc­ing, though he has not yet served his time.

Pa­padopou­los emerged as a key wit­ness in the Rus­sia probe be­cause of an of­fer he made to con­nect the Trump cam­paign with Rus­sian of­fi­cials — a sug­ges­tion at which Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump “nod- ded with ap­proval,” Pa­padopou­los’ lawyer said dur­ing his sen­tenc­ing —and his claim to have known that Rus­sia ac­cessed for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email, weeks be­fore that in­for­ma­tion be­came pub­lic.

But in ad­vance of his in­ter­view, Pa­padopou­los has claimed he was set up by the FBI, and used as “a patsy for a ‘Rus­sia’ con­spir­acy,” he said in a tweet, adding: “My set up was care­fully or­ches­trated.”

The FBI has pointed to a May 2016 con­ver­sa­tion Pa­padopou­los had in Bri­tain with Aus­tralian diplo­mat Alexan­der Downer, call­ing the meet­ing a piv­otal in­ci­dent that caused fed­eral law en­force­ment to open a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion into then- can­di­date Don­ald Trump.

That runs counter to charges from House Re­pub­li­cans loyal to the pres­i­dent, who ac­cuse the FBI of bas­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion on a now- fa­mous dossier com­piled by a for­mer Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence agent whose work was par­tially paid for by the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and par­tially by the Clin­ton cam­paign. Trump’s al­lies have used that claim to sug­gest the en­tire probe, in­clud­ing the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion, is bi­ased.

Pa­padopou­los

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