WASHINGTON — A conversation that Trump campaign adviser and North Side Chicago resident George Papadopoulos had with an Australian diplomat months before the 2016 presidential vote led to the ongoing probe of Russia’s meddling in the election, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
Papadopoulos, a graduate of Niles West High School and DePaul University who lives in Ravenswood, told Australia’s top diplomat in Britain during a meeting in London in May 2016 that Russia had thousands of emails that would embarrassClinton, the report said.
After the Democratic emails were leaked, Australia passed the information on to the FBI, according to the Times, which cited four current and former U.S. and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.
“The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016,” the newspaper said.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined to comment, saying in a statement that the administration is continuing to cooperate with the investigation now led by special counsel Robert Mueller “to help complete their inquiry expeditiously.”
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is a cooperating witness. Court documents unsealed two months ago show he met in April 2016 with Joseph Mifsud, a professor in London who told him about Russia’s cache of emails. This was before the Democratic National Committee became aware of the scope of the intrusion into its email systems by hackers later linked to the Russian government.
The Times said Papadopoulos shared this information with the Australian diplomat, but it was unclear whether he also shared it with anyone in the Trump campaign.
Papadopoulos wrapped up his campaign work in January 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile. He never joined the Trump administration and recently claimed to work as an oil, gas and energy consultant.
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He was born in August 1987 at Swedish Covenant Hospital on the Far North Side, and lived in Lincolnwood while attending Niles West. He picked up a bachelor’s degree in political science from DePaul in 2009 and earned an advanced degrees from University College London, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Neighbors said Papadopoulos has lived for the past few years with his mother and brother in a six-bedroom home that towers above the bungalows on a quiet block in the Ravenswood neighborhood, a short walk from where he was born.
Richard Farkas, a political science professor at DePaul who taught Papadopoulos, told the Chicago Sun-Times in October that he was surprised to hear about his position in the Trump campaign and found him unqualified for such a role.
“As a student, I remember him to be nondescript,” said Farkas, who teaches classes about Russian politics and foreign policy and U.S.-Russia relations. “He had very little experience, and he was prone to embellishing to get the position he wanted in the campaign.”
Papadopoulos’ lawyers have declined to comment on the case.
Contributing: Associated Press