Former Trump campaign aide discusses attempted meetings with Russian officials
Just two days after being sentenced to prison time for lying to the FBI, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos said he was caught between the Department of Justice and the newly- elected U.S. President Donald Trump during his incriminating interview with FBI officers last year.
“I found myself pinned between the Department of Justice and the sitting president and having probing questions that I thought might incriminate the sitting president,” Papadopoulos said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week”.
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These comments were Papadopoulos’ first in public since he was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in a federal prison, one year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service and a USD$9,500 fine.
Papadopoulos served as a foreign policy advisor to Trump’s campaign, and has been a central figure in the Russia investigation dating back before Mueller’s May 2017 appointment.
He pleaded guilty this past October to making false statements to the FBI about his involvement with Russian officials during the campaign. His meeting with the FBI took place in January, 2017. Papadopoulos was the first Trump campaign advisor to be arrested as part of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the campaign colluded with Russia.
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Records indicate that during the campaign, Papadopoulos was approached by a Maltese professor believed to be working on behalf of the Russian government.
In his interview with the FBI, Papadopoulos reportedly tried to create distance between himself and the professor despite stating Sunday that he actively worked to make the meeting happen.
“I actively sought to leverage my contacts with the professor to host this meeting,” Papadopoulos told ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos. “The campaign was fully aware what I was doing.” He added that he lied because he wanted a job in the Trump administration after the election was over.
Papadopoulos’ sentence drew a quick response from Trump on Twitter, who seemed to scoff at the ruling by comparing it to a cost estimate for Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“14 days for $28 MILLION – $2 MILLION a day, No Collusion. A great day for America!” the president tweeted.
According to a indictment handed down this summer, Russian intelligence had stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and other Democratic groups by April 2016, the same month Papadopoulos was told by a professor that Russian officials had claimed to have “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
Papadopoulos discussed at length his attempts to set up meetings with Russian officials while working on the campaign, including the Russian ambassador in London, a Russian student who was a “purported niece of Vladimir Putin,” and at one point, even with Russian president Vladimir Putin himself.
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“I explained to them that I come from a think tank background and I work in the energy industry, but I do have a connection that can establish a potential summit between candidate Trump and President Putin,” he said.
When asked if he thought there would be more convictions as part of the Mueller investigation, Papadopoulos responded, “Of course I’m not the last.”
“There have been other guilty pleas and convictions. I think Paul Manafort is sitting in jail as we speak. So, of course, I’m not the last. But apparently I was the start.”
— With files from the Associated Press.