Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos testified to Congress that the FBI had asked him to wear a wire in 2017 to record his conversations with a professor who had ties to Russia and claimed that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of stolen emails.
Papadopoulos rejected the FBI’s request to wear a wire, he told lawmakers in October 2018, and he pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the professor, Joseph Mifsud, who remains one of the mysterious figures in the Russia investigation.
The new details about Papadopoulos and the FBI’s request for a wire were disclosed Tuesday as Papadopoulos raised new questions about his plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller and openly said he would accept a pardon from Trump.
Papadopoulos has released a new book, titled “Deep State Target,” in which he claims that he did not actually lie to the FBI about his contacts with Mifsud, but rather was pressured into a plea agreement by Mueller’s team.
Mueller, in Papadopoulos’ court proceedings, said Papadopoulos’ lies to the FBI in early 2017 were intentional and hurt the agency’s ability to question, detain or arrest Mifsud when he was in Washington, DC, around that time.
“I realize that I misspoke to the FBI, but I wasn’t lying to hide anything,” Papadopoulos wrote.
“The ‘lie’ I was charged with … certainly wasn’t intentional.”
In addition to lying about his communications while he served on the campaign, Papadopoulos also deactivated his Facebook account and got a new cell phone after the FBI questioned him, further obscuring his communications with Mifsud and another Russian contact, a woman. Papadopoulos, as a campaign adviser in 2016, had discussed with the woman the possibility that then-candidate Donald Trump could meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a foreign policy trip to Russia.
The former Trump adviser also claimed he was “faced with a choice: accept the charges that I lied or face FARA charges,” referencing the US law regulating lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. “I made a deal. A deal forced on me.”
Papadopoulos told CNN Tuesday that his lawyer has requested a pardon for the former campaign adviser.
“My understanding is that they have formally applied for one,” he said. “If offered one, it would be an honor to accept.”
Papadopoulos has teased this course before, especially last fall before he served his two-week prison sentence.
Primarily on Twitter and in media interviews, Papadopoulos has said he thought he was entrapped by investigators and that he regretted pleading guilty.
In his congressional interview, Papadopoulos’ attorney, Caroline Polisi, would not let him answer questions about whether he still believed he lied to the FBI.
“We are here on a voluntary basis. We have answered all of your questions thus far. It is my advice to him that he not talk specifically about the offense conduct,” Polisi said.
The transcript of Papadopoulos’ closed-door interview was released Tuesday by Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. Collins has now published several interviews from the Republican-led probe in the last Congress into the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton and Trump investigations.
Papadopoulos’ conversations with Mifsud – which he later disclosed to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer – sparked the beginning of the Trump-Russia counterintelligence probe in July 2016 after Downer reported it to the FBI.
Asked about those conversations by lawmakers, Papadopoulos said he did not remember speaking to Downer about Mifsud and the stolen emails.
“No, to this day, I don’t remember actually ever sharing that information with this person that I guess triggered this whole investigation,” Papadopoulos said he told the FBI in 2017. Prosecutors said in court Papadopoulos did in fact initially tell the FBI about Mifsud teasing “dirt” he had on Clinton — but he lied about when the conversations took place (after he joined the Trump campaign) and the extent of his back-and-forth with Russia-connected individuals after that.
Papadopoulous’ in-court proceedings took on a drastically different tone than his public comments.
At his sentencing, Papadopoulos read a mea culpa, admitting that he had hurt the federal investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election and expressing regret for lying to federal investigators. The judge was lenient, noting that he believed Papadopoulos’ remorse.
Papadopoulos’ two-week prison sentence was the shortest among the defendants sentenced so far in Mueller cases.
“In hindsight, lying to federal agents about such a critical issue could have harmed our nation, and for that I am deeply embarrassed and personally ashamed,” Papadopoulos said in court in September. He then asked the court for a “second chance to redeem myself.”
It’s unclear how, legally, Papadopoulos could withdraw his plea if he wanted. He has waived many of his rights to appeal, and he has already served his time in prison and is no longer incarcerated.
CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report.