Papadopoulos: “My set up was carefully orchestrated.” - 6:04 AM 10/26/2018
Papadopoulos: “My set up was carefully orchestrated.”
George Papadopoulos, accompanied by his wife, Simona Mangiante, exits U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in September. (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post)
Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos is expected on Capitol Hill Thursday to answer lawmakers’ questions about his outreach to Russian officials and contacts with individuals who have become a focus of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of the president’s alleged Russia ties.
It is the first time that Papadopoulos, who was recently sentenced for lying to the FBI, will speak to any of the congressional panels examining aspects of Russian interference in U.S. politics. Lawmakers have wanted to interview him for more than a year but were unable to do so while he was cooperating with Mueller. After Papadopoulos was sentenced to two weeks in prison — time he has not yet served — he volunteered to speak with congressional committees.
Papadopoulos emerged as a key witness in the Russia probe because of an offer he made to connect the Trump campaign with Russian officials — a suggestion at which President Trump “nodded with approval,” Papadopoulos’s lawyer said during his sentencing last month — and his claim to have known that Russia accessed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s email, weeks before that information became public.
But in advance of his interview on Capitol Hill, Papadopoulos has been claiming that he was set up by the FBI, and used as “a patsy for a ‘Russia’ conspiracy,” he said in a tweet, adding: “My set up was carefully orchestrated.”
The FBI has pointed to a May 2016 conversation Papadopoulos had in the United Kingdom with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer as a pivotal incident that caused federal law enforcement to open a counterintelligence investigation into then-candidate Donald Trump. That runs counter to charges from House Republicans loyal to the president, who accuse the FBI of basing its investigation on a now-famous dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent whose work was partially paid for by the Democratic National Committee and partially by the Clinton campaign. Trump’s allies have used that claim to suggest the entire probe, including the special counsel investigation, is biased.
In advance of Papadopoulos’s closed-door interview, some of Trump’s allies on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees sought to demonstrate the FBI ignored what Papadopoulos told authorities. They surmised this from such assertions that the FBI had intentionally left out information from applications to surveil another former member of the Trump campaign, Carter Page.
“George Papadopoulos, the supposed key informant, told the FBI there was no collusion BEFORE the FISA warrant — and the FBI omitted that exculpatory information from the application anyway,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the head of the House Freedom Caucus, said on Twitter this week. FISA refers to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain warrants before authorities can conduct surveillance on Americans in national security cases. “With all we’ve learned about FISA abuses, this is deeply troubling.”
Papadopoulos has accused Downer, the Australian diplomat, of conspiring with former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. to hide what Papadopoulos charged was “the most profound, and illegal, spying operation against an American and the presidential campaign he worked for in history.”
In a letter to the committees earlier this week, Papadopoulos’s lawyer said he would be willing to discuss his interactions with nine individuals, including Downer, Stephen Halper, a professor who worked as an FBI source and had contacts with Papadopoulos, and Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who told him in April 2016 that the Russians had thousands of Clinton’s emails.