From ABC News:
George Papadopoulos, the Trump foreign policy aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, initially misled agents out of what he claimed was loyalty to President Donald Trump, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Papadopolous was apparently very concerned that he not deviate from the official line which had already been firmly established by Trump:
Trump had publicly denied that there had been any contact between his campaign and Russian officials, and Papadopoulos did not want to contradict the official line, the source said.
“It’s all fake news,” Trump said of any alleged connections in January. “It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen.”
But the connection between the Trump campaign and the Russian Federation was something quite different than “fake news” or “phony stuff:”
Papadopoulos met with the FBI agents investigating those alleged ties shortly thereafter, and he later acknowledged that he lied during that meeting about the timing of certain contacts.
According to federal court filings, Papadopoulos initially claimed his contacts with a professor who had deep ties in Russia “occurred before” he became an adviser to the campaign.
“In truth and in fact,” the filings read, “the professor only took interest in defendant Papadopoulos because of his status with the Campaign.”
Of course, Papadopolous’ involvement with Russia on behalf of the Trump campaign went well beyond this one meeting:
Papadopoulos sent emails concerning Putin to at least seven campaign officials. Clovis, as Trump national campaign co-chairman, encouraged Papadopoulos to fly to Russia to meet with agents of the Russian Foreign Ministry, after being told that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton it wanted to share with Trump’s campaign. This occurred before there was public knowledge of the hack of Democratic National Committee and of John Podesta‘s emails, both of which U.S. intelligence agencies believe were carried out by Russia.
Between March and September 2016, Papadopoulos made at least six requests for Trump or representatives of his campaign to meet in Russia with Russian politicians. In May, campaign chairman Paul Manafort forwarded one such request to his deputy Rick Gates, saying “We need someone to communicate that [Trump] is not doing these trips. It should be someone low-level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.” Gates delegated the task to the campaign’s correspondence coordinator, referring to him as “the person responding to all mail of non-importance.”
In this context it’s important to recall what Trump said after Papadopolous reached his plea deal:
After the plea agreement was made public last month, Trump sought to distance himself from Papadopoulos, tweeting that “few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.”
But far from a low-level employee, Papadopolous was someone whom the campaign entrusted with its most sensitive foreign policy schemes, well before the election had even occurred:
[T]he “low level volunteer” made several trips overseas throughout 2016, purportedly on behalf of the campaign, making appearances where he was introduced as a Trump adviser.
In April, he traveled to Israel to speak at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, an appearance arranged by the former Israeli ambassador to Greece. In May, he met in Athens with the president of Greece. In September, he met with officials at the British Foreign Office in London.
During inaugural festivities, Papadopoulos met with advocates for Israeli settlements, telling them “We are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship with all of Israel.”
So this is someone who would have been privy to any matters of foreign policy that this Administration intended to implement. Certainly privy to anything involving their plans for Russia.
Lying on camera to a group of reporters is one thing. Lying in a closed door session to FBI agents is quite another. Why would anyone risk imprisonment—literally risk ruining the rest of his life–by lying to the FBI out of “loyalty” to someone if it was only a matter of minor importance? Lying to the FBI is a guaranteed ticket to jail. If there was not some very serious reason to lie, why risk the consequences?
Papadopolous was knee-deep in the Trump campaign’s dance with the Russians. So the question becomes, what was so important about preserving the “official line” that no contacts whatsoever had occurred, such that it could not under any circumstances be contradicted with the truth?
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.