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Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleads guilty in Mueller probe

Guilty plea in Mueller probe
George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in case related to Russia probe 08:42

A former campaign aide to President Donald Trump has pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents working for special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos attempted to set up a meeting with Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he spoke to an overseas professor about Russian "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, in the form of thousands of emails, and according to court documents, he told the FBI lies about both.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to one count of lying to FBI agents about the nature of his interactions with "foreign nationals" who he thought had close connections to senior Russian government officials. The plea was unsealed Monday.

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According to court documents, Papadopoulos misstated the timing of his interactions with an overseas professor who apparently had connections to the Russian government. While Papadopoulos acknowledged that the professor had told him that the the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton -- thousands of emails -- he claimed that he had learned this before he joined the Trump campaign. 

However, investigators found that Papadopoulos joined the campaign in early March 2016, and he met with the professor in mid-March 2016. Papadopoulos also claimed in his FBI interview that the professor was "a nothing," and just a guy talking up his connections. But in fact, the 30-year-old senior foreign adviser was trying to make contact with the Kremlin through the professor's connections.

Among those connections was a female Russian national who was described in Papadopoulos' emails as Russian President Vladimir Putin's niece (he later learned she was not related to Putin). Papadopoulos, according to the court documents, worked with the Russian national and the professor to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He also told advisers to the campaign that he could help arrange a meeting between Mr. Trump and Putin.  

Papadopoulos told the FBI that he had done some "shuttle diplomacy" for the president, but he did not inform investigators about his interactions with the professor and the Russian national regarding his efforts to set up meetings between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

He also lied about the extent of his conversations with the Russian national, stating that the their communications were limited to emails that said "just, 'Hi, how are you?'" and "'That's it,'" he told the FBI. 

In April 2016, Papadopoulos corresponded with the professor and Russian national about the campaign's Russian outreach, and the Russian national responded positively.

"I have already alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request," she wrote to Papadopoulos. "...[W]e are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced."

On Apr. 25, Papadopoulos wrote to a senior Trump campaign adviser that "the Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready."

In May, Papadopoulos emailed a "high-ranking campaign official," according to the court documents, writing, "Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss."

Papadopoulos continued to communicate about possible meetings with the Russians, and then around August 15, 2016, four days before Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned, a "Campaign Supervisor" told Papadopoulos he and another foreign policy adviser should travel to Russia for a meeting. They did not ultimately make such a trip. However, a footnote in the court document says that a Trump campaign official forwarded Papdopoulos' email to another campaign official with a note that said they should "discuss," because "[w]e need someone to communicate that DT (Donald Trump) is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal."

Who is George Papadopoulos?

Papadopoulos is the first person to face criminal charges that cite interactions between Trump campaign associates and Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential campaign. He was a member of the campaign's foreign policy team, but Trump aides have said he played a limited role in the campaign and had no access to Mr. Trump. 

However, he can be seen in a national security meeting with candidate Trump in this Instagram post:

Meeting with my national security team in #WashingtonDC. #Trump2016

A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

Also, the government's complaint against Papadopoulos, filed on July 28, notes that Donald Trump himself, when he met with the Washington Post in March 2016, "provided the names of five individuals identified as members of the campaign's foreign policy team, including GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS." Mr. Trump referred to him during his Washington Post interview as an "excellent guy."

Papadopoulos worked for Ben Carson's presidential campaign before serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign. Then-Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett told CBS News' Major Garrett that he had received a LinkedIn note from Papadopoulos on Nov. 5, 2015 with a resume and a mention that he had done work for the Hudson Institute. Bennett hired him as a foreign policy adviser with a $5,000 per month retainer – this at a time when Carson was very competitive with Mr. Trump and in desperate need of foreign policy advisers. He was laid off by the campaign shortly after the Iowa caucuses in the first round of campaign layoffs, after about seven weeks with the Carson campaign.

Bennett joined the Trump campaign the weekend before the New Hampshire primary and said he has no idea how Papadopoulos came into the Trump campaign orbit. 

In July, he was arrested when he arrived at Dulles International Airport. 

The charges against Papadopoulos carry a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The government agreed in the plea agreement to note for the court his "efforts to cooperate with the Government," as long as he continues to do so. And his sentencing won't take place until his cooperative efforts have concluded, according to the plea document

Here's the Statement of the Offense released by the special counsel's office Monday:

CBS News' Major Garrett, Julianna Goldman and Paula Reid contributed to this report. 

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