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.