FIRST GUILTY PLEA

A Trump campaign aide who thought he was meeting Putin’s niece admits lying to the FBI

Obsession
"America First"
Obsession
"America First"

George Papadopoulos, a Donald Trump presidential campaign aide, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing of when he learned that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and his contact with an unnamed professor connected to Russian government officials and a woman he wrongly believed to be Russian president Vladimir Putin’s niece, according to a 14-page Statement of the Offense (pdf) issued as part of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into 2016 campaign meddling.

The case marks the first guilty plea in Mueller’s probe. Federal authorities said Papadopoulos tried to set up a meeting between candidate Trump and Putin through the professor, the Russian woman, and a Russian foreign-ministry official. They said Papadopoulos originally lied to officials, saying he had met the professor and the woman before he joined the Trump campaign, and claiming his emails with the woman were anodyne messages like “Hi, how are you?”

Prosecutors say that after initially lying, Papadopoulos showed “purported willingness to cooperate with the FBI’s investigation.” He then met with investigators “on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”

The Trump campaign was aware as early as April 26 of claims that Russians had emails from Clinton’s campaign, according to the prosecutors. It also describes how Papadopoulos, hired as a foreign-policy advisor while living in London, told Trump and a group of other advisors that he “had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”

Prosecutors say Papadopoulos was regularly in touch with an unnamed “campaign supervisor” who encouraged his efforts as “great work” and less regularly in contact with a “high-ranking campaign official.”

Papadopoulos’ efforts seem to have eventually shrunk in ambition. Rather seeking to have Putin meet with Trump, he later suggested that he or other campaign aides visit Moscow to meet with someone in Putin’s office. The campaign supervisor told him, “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy advisor “to make the trip if it is feasible,” the prosecutors say. The trip never took place, according to the statement.

Papadopoulos appeared to have limited foreign-policy experience when joining the campaign, having finished his university studies in 2010, according to the Washington Post, and worked briefly as an oil and gas consultant. He had spent four years as a research associate at the conservative Hudson Institute think tank.

Mueller’s office said prosecutors would recommend a sentence of six months or less, with a fine between $500 and $9,500.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the Statement of the Offense presented by prosecutors as an “indictment.”

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