Former Trump adviser pleads guilty to lying to Mueller's team

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on.

In March 2016, Donald Trump sat down with the editorial board of the Washington Post, and was asked about the team of foreign policy advisers his campaign had assembled. The then-candidate volunteered a handful of names, including Carter Page, who's now a key figure in the Russia scandal, and whom Trump later claimed not to know.

But after mentioning Page, Trump quickly added to his list of advisers, "George Papadopoulos, he's an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy."

Even at the time, this seemed odd. Papadopoulos had only graduated from college seven years earlier, and he listed participation with the "Model United Nations" as one of his credentials. And yet, in March 2016, the then-frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination identified Papadopoulos as one of only a handful of people advising him on foreign policy.

As of today, George Papadopoulos is suddenly known for a brand new reason.

A former Trump campaign adviser struck a cooperation agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, secretly pleading guilty three weeks ago to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians.George Papadopolous, who joined the Trump team in spring 2016 as an energy and foreign policy expert, communicated with a "campaign supervisor" during the campaign about his attempts to arrange a meeting with the Russians to discuss U.S.-Russia ties during a Trump presidency, according to court documents. The supervisor, who was not named in the documents, told him, "Great work."He relayed to the supervisor that during his communications with Russian contacts, the Russians said they had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton and thousands of emails.

This morning, after we learned about the criminal indictments for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates, it wasn't long before the president's allies had a talking point ready: these alleged crimes weren't directly related to the Trump organization.

The Papadopoulos story, however, hits much closer to home.

The New York Times reported a month ago that the special counsel's office had requested "all internal White House communications about numerous former campaign officials," including Papadopoulos.

After reading the report, this Washington Post piece from August immediately came to mind.

Three days after Donald Trump named his campaign foreign policy team in March 2016, the youngest of the new advisers sent an email to seven campaign officials with the subject line: "Meeting with Russian Leadership - Including Putin."The adviser, George Papadopoulos, offered to set up "a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump," telling them his Russian contacts welcomed the opportunity, according to internal campaign emails read to The Washington Post.

As NBC News' report this morning notes, Papadopoulos was arrested three months ago, and though we didn't know about it until today, he pleaded guilty three weeks ago. Papadopoulos' plea agreement says the government will inform the sentencing judge of his "efforts to cooperate with the Government, on the condition that your client continues to respond and provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant."