WASHINGTON — A former Trump campaign aide central to the early days of the FBI’s Russia investigation said the FBI wanted him to wear a wire to record conversations with a professor who had told him the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
George Papadopoulos, the first of five Trump aides to plead guilty and agree to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s recently-concluded investigation, told House lawmakers and staff in a closed-door interview last October that he rejected the FBI request.
A transcript of that interview was released Tuesday by the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee as part of an ongoing effort to sow doubt about the origins of the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign. Mueller ended his investigation last week without finding a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign to affect the 2016 presidential election, according to a Justice Department summary of his findings released Sunday.
Papadopoulos was a vital figure in the early days of the FBI’s investigation. The revelation that Papadopoulos had learned in an April 2016 meeting in London that Russia had “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of stolen emails helped kick start the FBI probe months later.
In his interview with lawmakers, Papadopoulos says an FBI agent asked him during a 2017 encounter to wear a wire to a record future conversations with the Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, who he has said told him about the “dirt.”
“And he basically told me that Washington wants answers and you’re at the center of this, something like that to make it seem like I was in some deep trouble if I wasn’t going to wear a wire against this person,” Papadopoulos said, describing his conversation with the agent. “I rejected it.”
The FBI declined to comment Tuesday.
Papadopoulos said he wasn’t sure what to make of Mifsud’s claim about Russia having dirt on Clinton since, at the time, “people were openly speculating about that.”
“So yeah, it was an interesting piece of information, but you know, by that point you have to understand, he had failed to introduce me to anyone of substance in the Russian Government,” Papadopoulos said. “So he failed to do that, but now all of a sudden he has the keys to the kingdom about a massive potential conspiracy that Russia is involved in.”
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Mifsud and was sentenced to 14 days in prison. Papadopoulos has been promoting a new book called “Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump.”
The Papadopoulos transcript is the latest release over the last month from Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. Other transcripts recently made public include those of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr and ex-FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, all steady targets of Trump’s outrage.