Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos claimed in an email that senior campaign officials had agreed to a meeting with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race. Papadopoulos is currently cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into whether associates of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to subvert the 2016 election.
On Oct. 30, the Department of Justice (DOJ) disclosed that Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI on Oct. 5. Papadopoulos had told FBI agents in January that he had had contact with sources connected to the Russian government before he joined the Trump campaign, but evidence later indicated that this was not the case.
Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser in March 2016. After joining the campaign, he developed contacts with several sources who told him that the Russian government had obtained damaging information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and that Russian officials were interested in meeting with the Trump campaign.
On July 14, 2016, Papadopoulos forwarded an email to a Russian contact suggesting that Trump campaign officials meet with Russian officials in August or September of that year, Bloomberg reports.
"It has been approved by our side," Papadopoulos wrote in the email, implying that high-ranking Trump campaign officials had signed off on a potential meeting with Russian officials.
There is no evidence that the meeting Papadopoulos proposed ever took place. The same day that the DOJ unsealed Papadopoulos' guilty plea, the Mueller team indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate, Rick Gates, for conspiracy and financial crimes.
Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni asserted that the former campaign chairman shot down Papadopoulos' proposal to meet with Russian officials.
"Mr. Manafort's swift action reflects the attitude of the campaign -- any invitation by Russia, directly or indirectly, would be rejected outright," Maloni said in a statement.
On Nov. 1, a former Trump campaign official who requested anonymity asserted that Papadopoulos had proposed a meeting with Russian officials to President Donald Trump directly as early as March 2016.
"[Trump] didn't say yes and he didn't say no," the official told CNN.
Several prosecutorial experts have deemed Papadopoulos a key asset in the Mueller probe's investigation.
"I'm sure they told Papadopoulos, 'You're going to go to jail' -- and a lot of people cooperate when they hear that," former federal prosecutor Todd Blanche told The Guardian. "Every successful case of this nature needs a cooperator. If you assume there's collusion, it's very difficult to prove that without someone on the inside.
"He's bait, absolutely," said white-collar criminal defense attorney John Lauro. "They clearly put pressure on him, and I would not be surprised if he then engaged others being investigated and had tape-recorded conversations with them, in person or on the phone."
On Oct. 31, Trump took to social media to assert that Papadopoulos only had a marginal role in his 2016 campaign.
"Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar," Trump tweeted out.