The Trump campaign official who admitted he met with Russians to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton claims President Donald Trump knew that he intended to meet with foreign nationals.
George Papadopoulos has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian academic who promised “thousands of emails” that would hurt the Clinton campaign, but the just-reported comments from Politico would be the first time Papadadoulos’s work had a direct link to Trump himself, rather than lower-level campaign staffers.
Marianna Kakaounaki, an investigative reporter for the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, said Papadopoulos told her that Trump called him personally after he was hired to the campaign in March 2016. Trump later met with Papadopoulos one-on-one, when the aide told Trump about his ongoing efforts to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kakaounaki said.
Around the same time, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that Papadopoulos was an “excellent guy.” The Trump administration maintains that Papadopoulos only met Trump on March 31 for a group photo shoot.
“I felt that he was probably lucky, having just met Trump in person and then Trump being interviewed and mentioning his name,” Kakaounaki told Politico. “That mention opened a lot of Greek doors for him, and probably in other countries too.”
Papadopoulos’ latest recollection about his close relationship with Trump refutes the Trump administration’s claim that he was a low-level “coffee boy” on the 2016 campaign, a narrative pushed as the Trump team downplayed his role and influence during the election. But Politico reports that Papadopoulos is “prone to self-promotional exaggeration” and that there is skepticism surrounding his claims that Trump had written him a “blank check” for any job in the administration.
Michael Caputo, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said Papadopoulos’ title as a foreign policy adviser translated being “the coffee boy.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Papadopoulos had an “extremely limited,” “volunteer” role with Trump, but had “nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity.”
Trump has taken to Twitter to call Papadopoulos a young, low-level volunteer “who has already proven to be a liar.”