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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

George Papadopoulous may not have been the "low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar," as Trump once described him on Twitter. At least according to new information about his various meetings with Russian leadership, all in an attempt to connect Trump and Vladimir Putin, as reported by NYT.

Why it matters: Papadopoulous has already been charged in Bob Mueller's probe for lying to the FBI. That brought the Russia investigation closer to Trump, but Papadopoulos' claim that he lied to protect Trump, as well as the reports that he shared Russian information with Stephen Miller, make it harder for Trump to ignore this probe because it suggests senior campaign officials knew of the attempts to connect with Russian government officials.

The March 2016 meeting:

  • One man who claimed to have "high-level contacts in the Russian government," Joseph Mifsud, only expressed interest in Papadopoulous after he joined the Trump campaign.
  • He was at this meeting with Papadopoulous, as well as a woman named Olga Polonskaya, who Mifsud curiously introduced as Putin's niece — though court papers indicate Putin doesn't have a niece.
  • Misfud had a rocky history, and those who knew him described him as "very, very strange" to the Times. But he quickly became a political pundit on Russia state TV, praising Putin and pushing his "expertise" in Russian politics.

The April 2016 meeting:

  • Mifsud and Papadopoulos met for breakfast at a hotel in London, where Mifsud claimed he had "thousands of emails" containing "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
  • Papadopoulos emailed Stephen Miller the day before this breakfast meeting. He told Miller Putin wanted to extend an "open invitation" to Trump to visit Russia.
  • The day after the meeting he emailed Miller about "some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right," per NYT.
  • Months later Russian-state hackers released dozens of DNC emails.

One last thing: Papadopoulos, though described as a "volunteer" by Trump, was a foreign policy adviser to Trump's campaign, even going so far as to edit a major foreign policy speech for Trump, per NYT.

Go deeper

Axios-Ipsos poll: Confidence in Biden COVID recovery tumbles

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Confidence in President Biden's ability to rescue the economy from COVID-19 has dropped since January, even as Americans' faith rises in his ability to make the vaccine widely accessible, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: It's Democrats and independents driving the declining economic confidence, from 52% of all U.S. adults at the start of his presidency to 44% now. Their softening faith could hinder Biden's ability to lead and hurt Democrats' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Attacks rise on houses of worship

Woven Stars of David hang along the fence at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on the 1st anniversary of a mass shooting at the synagogue. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Houses of worship -- across a variety of faiths, including Jewish synagogues to Buddhist temples and Catholic churches -- are experiencing high amounts of vandalism, arson and other property damage.

The big picture: 2021 is on track to be a record year for hate crimes in the U.S., and many of those attacks are linked to religious bigotry.

12 mins ago - Health

Crunch time for Democrats' competing health priorities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Democrats try to reach a deal on a massive social policy bill, its health care measures are emerging as key sticking points.

Between the lines: Moderate members have successfully reduced the amount of new spending that the party is aiming to pass, amplifying the tug-of-war between different factions of the party over which health policies to prioritize.