At first blush, it seemed as if another shoe may be dropping for an associate of President Donald Trump in the investigations into Russia’s 2016 election interference when the news broke Monday night that a campaign adviser had repeatedly tried to arrange meetings with Russian contacts.
But according to the Washington Post’s report, that aide was foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, one of the youngest and least prominent members of Trump’s campaign.
In a phone call with TPM, a former Trump campaign adviser confirmed Papadopoulos made at least one effort to arrange meetings between Russian officials and Trump or senior members of his campaign that was swiftly rebuffed.
“I remember him raising that once and it never went anywhere,” the adviser said. “It was a nothing. It was a sort of comment or suggestion. I heard him make it, but it was sort of shot down and never really taken seriously.”
The former adviser repeatedly insisted Papadopoulos was not “a significant player” on the foreign policy team and described him as “probably the most junior guy,” saying he never saw evidence that Papadopoulos had successfully developed his own networks in the foreign policy community.
Papadopoulos, who has a nearly nonexistent online presence aside from a LinkedIn profile, did not respond to a message on that platform requesting comment for this story.
His mysterious emergence in and disappearance from the Trump orbit raises questions about why he made at least six attempts via email to broker meetings between Russian leaders and Trump advisers, according to the Post’s reporting, as well as about who his contacts were.
The only Russian individual named in the Post article is Ivan Timofeev, a senior official in the government-funded Russian International Affairs Council, who inquired in May 2016 about arranging a Moscow meeting between Trump and Russian foreign ministry officials. Both Sam Clovis, then the co-campaign chairman, and Paul Manafort swatted down the Timofeev inquiry, per the report.
Papadopoulos is a 2009 college graduate whose work experience includes stints at a handful of Washington, D.C. think tanks and a London-based oil and gas advisory firm. His youth and lack of policy experience were immediately called into question when Trump listed him as one of five foreign policy advisers during a March 2016 sit-down with the Post’s editorial board; he had previously briefly served as a campaign adviser to Ben Carson.
At the time, Trump referred to Papadopoulos as an “excellent guy.”
During his tenure on the campaign, Papadopoulos was not tasked with assisting with press interviews, nor did he make notable contributions to rolling out Trump’s foreign policy proposals, according to the former campaign adviser. He did conduct one September 2016 interview with independent Moscow news site Interfax, however, in which he said that U.S. sanctions “have done little more than to turn Russia towards China.”
Despite his apparently minimal involvement, Papadopoulos makes prominent reference to his tenure on the Trump team in his LinkedIn profile; his banner names him as a “former advisor at Donald J Trump for President” and his summary leads off with Trump’s words of praise to the Post.
Carter Page, another former member of Trump’s foreign policy team who has been interviewed multiple times by the FBI about his business ties to Russia, told TPM that questions about Papadopoulos’ work on the campaign were “irrelevant.”
Other former members of the foreign policy team, as well as representatives from the organizations listed on Papadopoulos’ LinkedIn, where he is currently listed as a New York City-based independent “oil, gas and policy consultant,” did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.
The head of the only organization Papadopoulos listed as a current affiliation, the Cyprus-based International Presidential Business Advisory Council, denied any connection to him.
“George Papadopoulos is NOT a member of IPBAC, never was and we have never worked together,” John Georgoulas, head of the organization, told TPM in an email, saying he’s “never met him.”
When TPM told Georgoulas that Papadopoulos had listed himself as a “member” of the group on his LinkedIn profile, Georgoulas noted that the former Trump aide had once added him as a connection, but said that Papadopoulos’ claim to membership was “weird and not true!”