Steve Bannon has told associates that George Papadopoulos is a "nobody" whom he's never met. Many top figures on the campaign genuinely had no idea who he was. Some White House officials had to resort to Google when the news broke this morning that this former volunteer foreign policy adviser on the campaign, Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia during the campaign.
Our thought bubble: Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were clearly important figures in the Trump campaign, but Papadopoulos didn't feature prominently and was paid little attention by Trump or other senior advisers. Trump did mention Papadopoulos by name in a meeting with the Washington Post, but he was boasting about a foreign policy team that was hastily assembled, inexperienced and to which he paid almost no attention. None of this exonerates Papadopoulos, though, and it's clear some of his superiors knew about some of his efforts because he prodded them.
A former campaign official told me shortly after the news broke:
"To be honest... I thought they were talking about George Gigicos (advance man on campaign) ... not because he could've possibly been involved with Russia but because he's the only guy with a Greek name that anyone knew on the campaign."
J.D. Gordon, who supervised Papadopoulos in his capacity as a Trump campaign national security adviser, said he was "surprised to learn today what George Papadopoulos was up to during the campaign.
"[Papadopoulos] obviously went to great lengths to go around me and Senator Sessions," Gordon told me in a text message.
"Presidential campaigns are like that," Gordon continued. "Very hard to know what every single person is doing, especially since some folks deliberately go around the chain of command or circumvent it."
"George Papadopoulos obviously represents an extreme case."