In his first response to George Papadopoulos‘ guilty plea, President Donald Trump Tuesday attempted to distance himself from the foreign policy adviser who joined his 2016 campaign and, later, served on a presidential international business advisory council.
“Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to FBI officials about his communications with Russian nationals in an effort to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team unsealed the documents in the case against Papadopoulos Monday as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Paul Manafort, Corey Lewandowski and Sam Clovis are among the Trump campaign officials who were contacted by Papadopoulos, sources familiar with the emails have told ABC News.
Documents unsealed by Mueller on Monday detailing correspondence between Papadopoulos and a group of foreign nationals show that within weeks of being described by Trump as an important part of his national security team, Papadopoulos was in London meeting with people who said they could deliver “dirt” on rival candidate Hillary Clinton, including “thousands of e-mails.”
One of the so-called “foreign contacts” is identified as a professor who introduced Papadopoulos to a Russian woman who claimed to be Vladimir Putin’s niece and a Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official.
This is the clearest evidence yet of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC News these latest revelations prove nothing.
Trump’s lawyer personal lawyer Jay Sekulow argued on Good Morning America Tueday that Papadopoulos’ offense was “no crime of collusion.”
Papadopoulos was most recently serving as an independent oil, gas and policy consultant for the International Presidential Business Advisory Council, according to information from his LinkedIn account.
Papadopoulos was only a volunteer on the campaign and that his role was “extremely limited,” the White House said Monday.
Papadopoulos was seated at the table with President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a March 31 meeting with the president’s national security team.
During a visit to the Washington Post headquarters in March of last year, Trump revealed the names of his foreign policy team and mentioned Papadopoulos as an “excellent guy.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that Trump was being nothing more than “complimentary on behalf of the campaign” at the time.
Along with Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump’s deputy campaign manager Rick Gates were indicted on 12 counts including money laundering and failing to disclose their work as foreign agents. They pleaded not guilty.
“As Paul [Manafort’s] lawyer said, there was ‘no collusion’ and events mentioned took place long before he came to the campaign,” Trump tweeted.
The indictment released by the special counsel Monday alleges that Manafort acted as an unregistered agent of the Ukranian government between 2006 and 2015. But Manafort was laundering Ukraine payments from 2006 through at least 2016 to hide it from the U.S. government, according to the document. Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016.
“I think that the Papadopoulos plea is really a sort of roadmap for where the investigation goes from here,” said ABC News Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams.
“I think you’re going to see prosecutors trying to put together pieces here. That still doesn’t mean that Donald Trump gets indicted for anything, but I don’t think there’s any question that this is the beginning — not the end — as the Trump team seems to hope,” Abrams added.