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21 Jan 2018 7:45
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  •   Home > News > International

    George Papadopoulos: The ex-Trump campaign aide at the centre of the US election probe

    Here's what we know about the man at the centre of the FBI's probe into Russian election interference and how a boozy night out with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer sparked his downfall.


    In March 2016, US President Donald Trump described his then-campaign aide George Papadopoulos as an "excellent guy".

    By November this year, he was just a "low-level volunteer" and "a liar".

    Here's what we know about the man at the centre of the FBI's probe into Russian election interference and how a boozy night out with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer sparked his downfall.

    What did Mr Papadopoulos do for Donald Trump?

    Mr Papadopoulos worked as a foreign policy advisor for Mr Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

    As a 30-something political arts graduate, he was a young, junior member of the team.

    The New York Times has described him as "brash" and "boastful".

    But according to senior ABC reporter Anne Barker, he was virtually unknown outside Washington until it was revealed in October that he had lied to the FBI.

    What did he lie about?

    Mr Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his campaign contacts with Russian officials.

    Court documents unsealed two months ago show in April 2016 he met with Joseph Mifsud, a professor in London who he believed to have substantial connections in the Russian Government and who claimed to have "thousands of emails" that would hurt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

    Mr Papadopoulos said such contacts occurred before he joined Mr Trump's campaign, but that later turned out to be false.

    When the news of his confession broke, it was initially overshadowed by news of Paul Manafort, the one-time chairman of Donald Trump's campaign, being charged with money laundering and conspiracy against the US.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time that Mr Papadopoulos' role was "extremely limited" and "no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign".

    But it later became apparent that Mr Papadopoulos would cause considerable grief for Mr Trump.

    Did Donald Trump know?

    That's a big question.

    Mr Papadopoulos says in March 2016 he told a meeting of foreign policy advisors that he had "connections" who could help arrange a meeting between Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Mr Trump was at that meeting, but says he doesn't remember much about it.

    "It was a very unimportant meeting," he said.

    A photograph posted on Mr Trump's Instagram account showed Mr Papadopoulos sitting two seats from Jeff Sessions, now Mr Trump's Attorney-General.

    Mr Sessions denied knowing anything about communications between the Trump campaign and Russia in January this year.

    But in November he admitted he could now recall the meeting.

    "But I have no clear recollection of the details of what [Mr Papadopoulos] said during that meeting," he said.

    So how is Alexander Downer involved?

    The New York Times has reported that Mr Papadopoulos went out drinking with Australia's High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer — one of our top diplomats — in May 2016.

    That night, he allegedly told Mr Downer that Russia was shopping dirt on Hillary Clinton to her political rivals.

    When leaked Democratic Party emails began appearing in public two months later, it's alleged Australian officials passed that intel onto their American counterparts.

    And voila — that helped trigger the FBI investigation.

    ABC/AP


    ABC




    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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