Democracy & Government

Why George Papadopoulos Is Trump’s New Nightmare

It's not the indictment of his former campaign manager that Trump should worry about. It's what we're learning about his little-known foreign policy aide, George Papadopoulos.

Why George Papadopoulos Is Trump’s New Nightmare

George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to several charges in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump-Russia connections. (Screen shot of ABC's World News Tonight on Oct. 30, 2017)

Former Trump foreign policy adviser Papadopoulos pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russia during the campaign. That means big trouble for the president.

In isolation, George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea rebuts the claim that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is a “hoax.” In context, Papadopoulos’ confession fits into a bigger picture. Increasingly, it appears that Putin expected a Trump administration to soften US policy toward Russia and even eliminate debilitating sanctions imposed after its incursion into Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Roll the tape:

Now add a few key post-election events:

  • On Dec. 1, 2016, Jared Kushner suggested to Ambassador Kislyak the use of Russian diplomatic facilities to establish a secure back channel for private communications between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.
  • In late December 2016, President Obama’s new sanctions against Russia for election interference complicated the picture. Although he initially denied doing so, Trump’s national security adviser-designate Michael Flynn spoke with Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the new sanctions. Then when Putin did not retaliate for the sanctions, Trump tweeted:

  • In late January, a pro-Putin Ukrainian legislator and a former Trump business associate met with Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen at a luxury hotel in Manhattan. They gave Cohen a proposed Ukrainian peace plan that would lift Russian sanctions. Cohen was supposed to pass the plan along to then-national security adviser Flynn. At about the same time, the administration considered an executive order lifting Russian sanctions unilaterally.

Team Trump lied repeatedly about pre-election contacts between the campaign and Russia. Why? That’s one of the questions special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to answer, and former campaign adviser Papadopoulos is now a prosecution witness in the case. His guilty plea, released this week, filled in many holes in the still unfolding narrative about what exactly occurred last year.

That’s why, based on what the public already knows Papadopoulos to have told federal investigators, George Papadopoulos is Trump’s new nightmare.

Steven Harper

Steven Harper blogs at The Belly of the Beast, is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, and contributes regularly to The American Lawyer. He is the author of several books, including The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis and Crossing Hoffa — A Teamster’s Story (a Chicago Tribune “Best Book of the Year”). Follow him on Twitter: @StevenJHarper1.

RELATED CONTENT