Politics

Papadopoulos Contradicts Jeff Sessions on Putin Summit

Ex-Trump campaign aide sentenced Friday to 14 days in prison for lying to FBI, fined $9,500; tours Sunday news shows

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“My verdict speaks volumes,” former Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos told ABC “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos Sunday.

Papadopoulos (shown above left) was sentenced Friday to two weeks in prison and a $9,500 fine for lying to the FBI in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of allegations that aides to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russian interests.

The 31-year-old Papadopoulos told Stephanopoulos he “didn’t understand really the nature of what was going on” in 2017 when he found himself “pinned between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the sitting president.”

A “remorseful” and “contrite” Papadopoulos confirmed that he was trying to protect the president, fearing that the president could be wrongly incriminated.

Papadopoulos is the campaign adviser whose meeting with Cambridge professor and long-time FBI informant Stefan Halper at a London hotel in 2016 helped trigger a series of events culminating in an FBI investigation, Mueller’s appointment, and the seemingly endless media reports about the “Russia probe.”

At that meeting, the Maltese professor, who had ties to Russia, told Papadopoulos the Russians had obtained a number of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“Attorney General Sessions has publicly testified under oath about his recollection of this meeting, and he stands by his testimony.”

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The purpose of the meeting at the hotel, according to Papadopoulos, was to help make arrangements for then-candidate Trump to meet with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin—a goal on which Papadopoulos says some of Trump’s other advisers were quite keen.

Papadopoulos’ recollection and that of Attorney General Jeff Sessions appear to be at odds with respect to a March 2016 campaign gathering in which Papadopoulos initially suggested the Trump-Putin meeting.

Though Sessions testified in November of 2017 that he “pushed back” on the idea, in Papadopoulos’ interview with ABC Sunday morning, he described Sessions’ reaction to the suggestion at the time as “quite enthusiastic.”

Papadopoulos repeated that assessment of Sessions’ enthusiasm on other networks as well.

“My recollection was that the senator [Sessions] was actually enthusiastic about a meeting between the candidate and President Putin after I raised the question,” Papadopoulos told CNN’s Jake Tapper. The segment was a clip from a CNN documentary on Papadopoulos, set to air Friday.

Papadopoulos denied recalling that Sessions “pushed back” during the meeting, as  Sessions subsequently claimed.

Chuck Cooper, Sessions’ private lawyer, said in a statement that “Attorney General Sessions has publicly testified under oath about his recollection of this meeting, and he stands by his testimony.”

“The collective energy in the room seemed to be interested,” said Papadopoulos in the clip, noting that candidate Trump nodded, but wasn’t committed either way.

Related: FBI’s Anti-Trump Spying Was ‘Running Out of Gas’

In a separate interview Friday with Tapper, Papadopoulos described how Halper approached him out of the blue in September 2016.

“I receive an unsolicited email from Stefan Halper, who I thought was a Cambridge professor inviting me,” Papadopoulos told Tapper. “He said, ‘I want you to write a paper for me on your expertise,’ which is gas discoveries in Israel and Turkey and Cyprus. I said, ‘Of course,’ you know I have no issue with that. It was a nice honorarium of $3,000, a free flight to London, a five-star hotel for two or three days of work.”

But then when the two men met face to face for the first time a week later in London, Papadopoulos said, “All of a sudden, he pulls out his phone, everyone has phones when they meet with me, and he places in the front of him and he begins to tell me, ‘So George, hacking is in the interest of your campaign. Of course, the Russians are helping you.’ These open-ended questions, and ‘Of course, you’re probably involved in it, too. That’s correct, right, George?'”

Papadopoulos said he told Halper he had no idea what he was talking about.

In April 2016, Papadopoulos met with a professor Mifsud at a hotel in London. Mifsud, whom Papadopoulos described in the ABC interview as “quite giddy,” said that the Russians “have thousands of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.”

Papadopoulos, attempting to clear up a “misunderstanding,” added in the interview with ABC that Mifsud did not tell him about anything about the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or John Podesta during that discussion. Podesta was campaign chairman for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential race against Trump.

Related: The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Or Maybe Only an Obscure Cambridge Professor

CNN’s Tapper pressed Papadopoulos about whether and with whom he might have shared what he learned from Mifsud about Russians’ having Clinton’s emails.

“As far as I remember, I absolutely did not share this information with anyone on the campaign,” the ex-Trump campaign aide told CNN’s Tapper.

Papadopoulos repeated the line “anyone,” shaking his head, when Tapper pressed him repeatedly with names of specific people he might have told, including Corey Lewandowski, Sam Clovis, [Rick] Dearborn, [John] Mashburn, and Walid Phares.

Eventually, Papadopoulos responded, “I might have, but I have no recollection of doing so. I can’t guarantee it. All I can say is my memory is telling me that I never shared it with anyone on the campaign.”

“That’s not very believable,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union about Papadopoulos’ denial.

When Tapper noted that Mashburn, another former Trump campaign aide, has testified that he recalls receiving an email from Papadopoulos to that effect, Warner replied, “We’d love to talk to him on the Senate intelligence side.”

“It just stretches, I think, most people’s credibility that if Papadopoulos had this knowledge, and he wanted to try to further ingratiate himself with the campaign, that he wouldn’t have shared that with somebody on the campaign.”

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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