It’s hard to keep track of Donald Trump’s story when it comes to Russia’s influence on the 2016 election. He’s said Russia definitely hacked the DNC, and said they didn’t meddle. He’s said nobody from his campaign talked to the Russians, then repeatedly, again and again, had to acknowledge the opposite. He’s said there was no collusion, but also said that “collusion is not a crime.”
He also has said that George Papadopoulos, one of the arrested members of Trump’s campaign, and who has likely flipped, was “just a coffee boy,” and characterized him on Twitter as a “low level volunteer.” Unfortunately for Donald Trump’s narrative, George Papadopoulos is telling a different story – and so far, the evidence is on his side.
Vanity Fair has more on why testimony from the “young, low level volunteer” could spell doom for team Trump:
‘Papadopoulos, according to Donald Trump, was a low-level volunteer—a “coffee boy,” according to another former campaign official. But Papadopoulos saw his role as much more significant—and evidence of his travels and communications on behalf of the campaign suggests that it was.
‘Before and after the 2016 election, Papadopoulos made a series of claims in interviews with Greek journalists that undercut Trump’s dismissive portrait of the then-29 year-old adviser. While the White House has only acknowledged one encounter Trump had with Papadopoulos, the Greek journalists told Politico that Papadopoulos told them he had an “informal” five-minute phone conversation with Trump in March 2016 after he had been selected to join the campaign’s foreign-policy team and that he met the then-presidential hopeful at a March 21 campaign event at the Trump Hotel in Washington. That same day, Trump sat down for the interview with The Washington Post‘s editorial board in which he listed the members of his newly formed foreign-policy staff and characterized Papadopoulos as “an energy and oil consultant” and “excellent guy.” (Papadopoulos later received approval from a campaign official to broker a meeting with the Russian government, according to records unsealed by the F.B.I., although an attorney for former national campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis said he was just “being polite” when he encouraged a trip to Europe.)
‘The vast web of relationships between multiple members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials or intermediaries has, of course, made it difficult for the White House to distance the president from the targets of Mueller’s investigation. It’s a dilemma that the Kremlin, far from wanting to help Trump resolve, seems to be enjoying. On Wednesday, when asked during an interview with Russia-1 to name all the Trump administration officials he met with or spoke to on the phone, the former Russian ambassador responded, sardonically, “First, I’m never going to do that. And second, the list is so long that I’m not going to be able to go through it in 20 minutes.”’
What kind of volunteer nobody gets sent on international trips to represent the campaign, and presumptive future president? You don’t entrust someone with that level of responsibility “to be polite.” You don’t sit in on meetings with him. There’s something fishy here. POLITICO has more:
Among Papadopoulos’s claims to a Kathimerini reporter and editor was that Trump called him personally in March 2016 after he had been tapped for Trump’s foreign policy advisory team. Papadopoulos said he had been recommended for the job by Trump’s former Republican primary rival, Ben Carson.
The true nature of Papadopoulos’s role on the campaign and relationship with Trump is important now that he has emerged as a key figure — and cooperating witness — in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the election. In court documents unsealed last month, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his communications with individuals claiming to represent the Russian government and who may have been trying to infiltrate or influence Trump’s campaign by offering him “dirt” and incriminating emails about rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s selection of the young and inexperienced Papadopoulos — along with another little-known energy consultant, Carter Page — followed months of criticism about his lack of national security expertise, but also struck foreign policy insiders as odd.
Trump’s glowing endorsement of Papadopoulos as an “excellent” guy was surprising given that Papadopoulos had just a few months of experience as a volunteer adviser for Carson, and more so after reports that he had embellished his resume — including his role at the Model United Nations and as a research fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute.
It seems very clear that Papadopoulos was very caught up in the intoxicating rush of newfound fame, eager to talk up his contacts and access. He probably overstated the level of influence he had, just like he was caught lying on his résumé. However, much of his story has been corroborated – if, say, Mueller was able to obtain records of whether that call was placed, it would go a long way to proving Trump a liar.
And if he was walking around bragging about his role in the Trump campaign, it stands to reason that he would be approached by foreign agents looking to exert influence. If he passed them up the chain of command and wasn’t rebuffed, it would look very bad for senior campaign officials. He was already caught lying to protect them – that’s what his plea deal was for. To put it simply, this does not look good for Donald Trump or his associates. At all.
Here’s more from The Young Turks:
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images