It appears that a night out on the town and some alcohol-fueled friendly conversation had George Papadopoulos saying more than he should again.
Papadopoulos allegedly claimed, while cavorting with a stranger at a Chicago nightclub, that Jeff Sessions had more interest than the attorney general has let on in the dirt on Hillary Clinton peddled to Papadopoulos during the 2016 campaign, according to Think Progress. Papadopoulos’ wife has since insisted the former Trump campaign aide wouldn’t have revealed the new information about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, with which Papadopoulos is cooperating.
The back-and-forth stems from a random encounter Thursday night with a nightclub-goer, Jason Wilson, who spotted Papadopoulos and his wife Simona Mangiante at Chicago’s Hydrate. The three became friendly and started chatting about the Russia investigation — a conversation in which Papadopoulos alleged that then-Sen. Sessions had encouraged him to seek more information about the existence of hacked Clinton emails that had been floated to Papadopoulos, Wilson told Think Progress.
Mangiante has confirmed to Think Progress that she and Papadopoulos met Wilson, and even acknowledged the Russia probe was discussed. She denied however that Papadopoulos discussed aspects of the investigation that weren’t already public.
After the ThinkProgress story was up, Mangiante on Twitter vehemently rebuked Wilson’s account.
“[A] guy in a club asked for a picture and reported untruthful fantasies out of a conversation with [Papadopoulos],” she said.
you reported my denials selectively- not fully, in a way that my message can be mislead. I said that this guy lies and that “the story he reported about sessions is not true”. Investigation is not a joke. check your sources
— Simona Mangiante (@simonamangiante) April 2, 2018
In response to ThinkProgress story, Simona Mangiante tells me she was at the table with Papadop and Wilson all night, and that Wilson is “lying”; says she believes this is an attempt to further a narrative that began with George’s drinking in London with the Australian diplomat. https://t.co/GNJrvuh5uJ
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) April 2, 2018
Papadopoulos, who served as a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, pleaded guilty last October to lying to FBI agents about his Russian-related contacts during the campaign. He has been cooperating with Mueller’s probe for many months now.
A mysterious professor named Joseph Mifsud met with Papadopoulos multiple times after he’d been named to the campaign and “told him about the Russians possessing ‘dirt'” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents. The documents outline numerous occasions in which Papadopoulos flagged these and other Russia-related communications to more senior campaign officials.
Papadopoulos, and his apparently loose lips, served as a genesis of sorts for the federal Russia probe. The FBI kicked off its inquiry into the Trump campaign in 2016 after Australian officials informed the U.S. government that Papadopoulos had drunkenly bragged to one of Australia’s diplomats in London about the dirt the Russians had on Clinton.
Sessions, who led Trump’s foreign policy team, has played down his level of awareness about Papadopoulos’ communications. He initially did not disclose a March 2016 meeting he sat in with Trump, Papadopoulos and other members of the foreign policy team where Papadopoulos brought up the contacts. Sessions later clarified that he only recalled the meeting after reading news reports about it.
The attorney general told Congress in November that he had “no clear recollection of the details” of the meeting, while also claiming that he “pushed back” on Papadopoulos’ suggestion that then-candidate Donald Trump should meet with Vladimir Putin. Unnamed attendees of the meeting who have spoken to Mueller have disputed Sessions’ account of his pushback, Reuters reported last month.
Asked for comment by TPM, Sessions’ attorney Chuck Cooper pointed to the denials Mangiante has posted on Twitter. Spokespeople for the Justice Department did not respond to TPM’s inquiry. A spokesman for Muller’s probe declined to comment in the Think Progress story.
According to Wilson’s account to Think Progress, Wilson introduced himself to Papadopoulos and Mangiante, who were both drinking vodka, after recognizing them at around 11 p.m. Thursday. The three would go on to take a photo together provided to Think Progress where a sign with the address of the nightclub is visible.
The couple — who met over LinkedIn and were wed in March — were friendly as they discussed with Wilson their marriage and living in Chicago, Wilson told Think Progress. When the conversation turned to the Russia probe, Wilson asked Papadopoulos if he would be let down once all the facts were out. Papadopoulos told him that things were “just getting started” and brought up Sessions in particular, Wilson told Think Progress.
Mangiante first confirmed to Think Progress that they’d all met, but in an interview on Sunday denied that Papadopoulos had made the claim about Sessions. She insisted — both to Think Progress and in a Twitter direct message sent Sunday to Wilson — that Papadopoulos would not have divulged any information about the case that wasn’t already public.
A lawyer for Papadopoulos also did not respond to TPM’s inquiry.
Update: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect what Mangiante told Think Progress about Papadopoulos discussed with Wilson. She acknowledged that the Russia probe was discussed, according to Think Progress. This story has also been updated to include Mangiante’s denials on Twitter and to add the response of Sessions’ attorney Chuck Cooper.