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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."

Go deeper

Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The U.S. Omicron wave may be peaking, but now COVID deaths are climbing as cases continue to soar in most of the country.

The big picture: Omicron's stranglehold in the U.S. started about a month ago. Its death toll — while almost certain to be smaller than previous waves of the pandemic — is only now starting to take hold, and deaths will likely continue to rise for several weeks.

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome" that's afflicted American and Canadian diplomats around the world, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.