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Russia collusion: Will ‘low-level volunteer’ George Papadopoulos spell doom for Trump?

George Papadopoulos was not exactly the lowly volunteer he has been made out to be - he was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.

world Updated: Oct 31, 2017 23:02 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Russian meddling,US presidential election 2016,Donald Trump
This undated image posted on his Linkedin profile shows George Papadopoulos posing on a street of London. Former Trump campaign aide Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Kremlin-related contacts, and more specifically on a Moscow-linked professor who was offering "dirt" on Trump's election rival Hillary Clinton. (AFP)

Within minutes of President Donald Trump’s triumphant tweet screaming “NO COLLUSION”, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller announced a guilty plea entered by Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos on lying to investigators about his Russia connection.

That had seemed like collusion. Trump went completely silent and let his aides deal with it by downplaying Papadapoulos’ role. Until Tuesday morning, when he tweeted, “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George (he is 30 years old), who has already proven to be a liar.”

Papadopoulos has indeed been found lying and has pleaded guilty to it. But he has been cooperating with the investigation in a plea deal since his arrest on July 27. He has met investigators “numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions”, Mueller’s office said in a court filing.

Papadopoulos was not exactly the lowly volunteer he has been made out to be. He was a foreign policy adviser to the campaign and there is even a picture circulating of him with Trump.

But the White House dismissed it saying, “The president has thousands of photographs with millions of people …”

He joined the campaign in March 2016 and around the same time, he started working towards a meeting between the campaign and the Russians, with the help of a London-based man identified in court filings as “The Professor” and “The Female Russian National”, also called “Putin’s niece”.

Papadopoulos was also in touch with an official in the Russian foreign ministry.

The Professor had told him the Russians had “dirt” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”, which had still not been made public (that would be done months later by WikiLeaks). Court filings and news reports suggest he didn’t succeed in getting the meeting.

But not for want of effort. Court filings cited several of them. One was addressed to someone named the “Campaign Supervisor”, who has since been identified by The Washington Post to be Sam Clovis, a former Iowa state radio host who was the national co-chair of the Trump campaign.

Asked if he was the “high ranking campaign official” who received several emails from Papadopoulos, erstwhile campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NBC on Tuesday: “You’re asking me to remember an email from April of 2016 when, on any given day, I would’ve received a thousand emails, and this would have come from a low-level volunteer.”

Then campaign chairman Paul Manafort is said to be the “another high-ranking campaign official” in the court documents and his deputy Rick Gates was identified as “another campaign official”, according to news reports that have not been challenged or denied.

Papadopoulos’ emails to these key campaign officials did not go unanswered as would be expected of some low-level volunteer. He got a response from them, and though he was not able to set up a meeting, he would have stories to tell Mueller’s investigators, with corroborated details.

First Published: Oct 31, 2017 23:02 IST