WASHINGTON - When real estate mogul Donald Trump was running for the U.S. presidency, a young foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, attempted to arrange a meeting between Russian government officials and the Trump campaign. Trump, in an interview at the time, described Papadopoulos as "an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy."
The would-be Trump-Russia meeting never occurred. But on Monday, however, special counsel Robert Mueller disclosed that Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the timing and importance of his contacts with "an overseas professor." He understood this person to have "substantial connections" to Russian officials that had "dirt" on Trump's election challenger, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and to communications with "a certain female Russian national" believed to be a niece of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Papadopoulos, according to his guilty plea to a criminal information, told FBI agents in a January 27 interview that his contacts with the London professor came before he joined the Trump campaign and that his contacts with the Russian woman were casual and inconsequential, both of which prosecutors said were lies.
The prosecution's statement of the case against Papadopoulos said he "made numerous false statements and omitted material facts" about his contacts with the professor and the Russian woman and a connection with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the Papadopoulos guilty plea "is just the latest in a series of undisclosed contacts, misleading public statements, potentially compromising information, and highly questionable actions from the time of the Trump campaign that together, remain a cause for deep concern and continued investigation."
Papadopoulos graduated in 2009 from DePaul University in Chicago with a bachelor's degree in political science and government, then earned a master's degree from University College London and the London School of Economics. He later worked for the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank, from 2011 to 2015 before joining the unsuccessful Republican presidential campaign of Dr. Ben Carson, whom Trump later named as his housing secretary.
After Trump took office, Papadopoulos worked as an independent oil, gas and policy consultant.
With his guilty plea, Papadopoulos faces up to five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, but his sentence could be substantially less if he testifies about his contacts with Trump campaign officials that are described in the statement of his actions.
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