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Report: Trump campaign officials urged Papadopoulos to contact Russians

George Papadopoulos | Linkedin

Emails obtained by the Washington Post from George Papadopoulos — the North Side native and DePaul University graduate at the center of the Robert Mueller probe — reveal top Trump campaign and presidential-transition officials had more contact with the young foreign-policy adviser than had been previously disclosed.

The Post reported Friday that chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and adviser Michael Flynn were among those key Trump officials who corresponded with Papadopoulos as he tried to broker stronger ties to foreign officials.

One exchange showed a key Trump campaign staffer urged Papadopoulos to make contact with Russian officials.

Thomas Breen, an attorney for Papadopoulos, declined comment when reached by the Post. A White House spokesman also declined comment.

The Post reports emails show Papadopoulos was seeking guidance after a Russian news agency requested an interview shortly before the 2016 election.

“You should do it,” deputy communications director Bryan Lanza urged Papadopoulos in a September 2016 email, emphasizing the benefits of a U.S. “partnership with Russia,” the Post reported.

The exchange shows Papadopoulos had the campaign’s blessing to continue foreign outreach.

Reports had previously shown that Papadopoulos had been in email contact with several key campaign officials, including former chairman Paul Manafort, former co-chairman Sam Clovis, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and an unidentified “high-ranking” campaign official. The Post report is the first time a line has been drawn directly from Papadopoulos to either Bannon or Flynn.

In one email sent in the fall of 2016, Papadopoulos told Bannon he could set up a meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and then-candidate Trump. Papadopoulos reportedly was the first individual to alert the campaign to Egypt’s interest in meeting with Trump.

Bannon reportedly asked Papadopoulos for talking points for the meeting, scheduled a phone call to discuss the matter and requested that Papadopoulos contact the embassy when they completed plans.

“This is a great move on our side,” Papadopoulos reportedly wrote to Bannon. “A home run.”

“Agree,” Bannon replied. “But very hard sell to DJT.”

It is unclear if Papadopoulos relayed to other campaign officials that the Russians had thousands of emails that could be damaging to the Clinton campaign, which he learned about from a London-based professor in April 2016, according to his plea agreement.

The report comes a month after Gates agreed to cooperate with the special counsel after he issued a series of new charges against him and Manafort — charges that took place before the presidential campaign. Manafort, however, continues to battle Mueller’s team in court.

Since Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts during the campaign and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Mueller, Trump officials have sought to paint the 30-year-old energy consultant as a low-level volunteer whose outreach to Russia was not authorized by the campaign.

The former Trump campaign policy adviser and 2005 Niles West High School graduate admits he lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential race. And Papadopoulos has been cooperating with the feds since late July.

“There’s a large-scale, ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part,” a federal prosecutor told a judge in October, according to a court transcript.

In pleading guilty on Oct. 5, Papadopoulos admitted to “making false statements” when he talked voluntarily to FBI agents on Jan. 27 in Chicago — just a week after Trump’s inauguration — about his connections with Russians who claimed to have “dirt” on Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

After Papadopoulos pleaded guilty, Trump tweeted that “few people knew the young, low-level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.”