Since Trump Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed on October 30 that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had already entered a guilty plea and was cooperating with authorities, the formerly obscure 30-year-old derided as a “coffee boy” by one top Trump aide, has emerged as a main focus of Mueller’s probe. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the details of his Russia contacts.
But over the ensuing 10 days since the Papadopoulos plea deal was announced, exactly how central the adviser whom Trump himself once called an “excellent guy” may be to the collusion puzzle has become increasingly clear. Though after October 30, Trump changed his tune on Papadopolous — now calling him a “low-level volunteer” and “proven liar” — reports this month have revealed that Papadopoulos undertook several missions abroad, apparently on behalf of the Trump campaign, meeting with foreign dignitaries including the president of Greece and the country’s defense minister.
In September, Papadopoulos gave an interview to the Russian media outlet Interfax, in which he dismissed United States sanctions against Russia as ineffective, and in January, the “low-level adviser” attended Trump’s inauguration where he again met with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
Papadopoulos continued to serve the campaign even after Trump’s term in the White House was officially underway, meeting with Israeli West Bank settlement advocates.
NEW Photo: George Papadopoulos meeting with the President of Greece in the presidential mansion as a Trump campaign Advisor-he wasn’t junior pic.twitter.com/Gn79yNfXf3
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) November 2, 2017
On November 8, another foreign trip by Papadopoulos in his reported capacity as a Trump campaign adviser was revealed — this time by independent journalist Scott Stedman, a student at the University of California at Irvine, who posted his findings in an article at this link. Stedman discovered that in September, Papadopoulos met in London with representatives of the United Kingdom Foreign Office in what was described as a “working level meeting.”
Stedman’s reporting was quickly confirmed by the BBC, which quoted a “Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman” describing the meeting with Papadopoulos as “normal diplomatic business,” and part of a routine attempt to “build links with figures in both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns.”
Not explained was why this “normal diplomatic business” involved Papadopolous, the supposed “coffee boy” whom White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed had never taken part in any meetings in “an official capacity on behalf of the campaign.”
But in an interview with Britain’s Sky News last week, Trump campaign adviser JD Gordon described Papadopoulos as someone the campaign was eager to “appease and not upset, at the same time as reining him in so that he doesn’t embarrass the campaign.” Why a figure allegedly as “low level” as Papadopoulos was someone the Trump campaign believed they must “appease and not upset” was not made clear by Gordon in the interview.
Papadopoulos became a central figure in the Mueller Trump Russia investigation because it was the “low level volunteer” who repeatedly told Trump campaign officials — and even Trump himself at a March 31, 2016, meeting of Trump’s then-new National Security team — that he could set up direct meetings with Russian officials and even a face-to-face meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
How could the “coffee boy” claim high level connections that could arrange meetings between the Trump campaign and Russia? According to the court documents released by Mueller as part of the Papadopoulos guilty plea, Papadopolous met with a mysterious “professor” in Europe who had high-level ties in the Kremlin and who introduced the young Trump adviser to Russians who could set up the meetings.
— Nic Robertson (@NicRobertsonCNN) November 9, 2017
When Papadopoulos stopped acting on behalf of Trump is not clear, but the FBI caught up to him on January 27 of this year, when agents first grilled him about his Russia contacts. Papadopoulos lied to the FBI agents in that interview, he has since admitted.
In perhaps the most astonishing revelation from the Papadopoulos plea documents, the “professor” told Papadopoulos that he knew of “thousands” of emails in possession of the Russian government — emails that contained “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton. The professor, who has since been identified as London-based Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud, told Papadopolous about the emails in April of last year — indicating that the Trump campaign likely knew about the massive Russian hack of Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign email servers at least three months before the emails became public knowledge in July.
An article published by the site BuzzFeed News on Wednesday revealed that the Russian hackers infiltrated Democratic servers as early as September of 2015.
Mifsud has acknowledged that he is the mysterious “professor” named in the Papadopoulos court documents, but has denied that he told Papadopoulos about the Clinton “dirt” held by the Russian government. However, a CNN report said that Mifsud “bragged” to associates “about how Moscow had ‘compromising material’ on the Clinton campaign.” Mifsud’s “bragging” happened in the spring of 2016, months before the Russian hacking attacks on Democrats were revealed publicly.
Mifsud has now vanished, his current whereabouts unknown, according to the CNN report published Wednesday.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]