Papadopoulos encouraged by Trump campaign staffer to make contact with Russians: report

George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosGeorge Papadopoulos urges Barr to investigate examples of 'spying' while he was campaign aide Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators Rand Paul blocks resolution calling for release of Mueller report MORE, the former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who has pled guilty to lying to the FBI, was reportedly encouraged by a senior-level campaign official to make contact with the Russians. 

The campaign’s deputy communications director, Bryan Lanza, urged the young adviser in a September 2016 email to accept an interview with a Russian news agency shortly before the election concluded, The Washington Post reported Friday.

“You should do it,” Lanza wrote, pushing him to help improve the U.S. “partnership with Russia.”

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The exchange suggests Papadopoulos received a campaign superior’s blessing to accept the foreign invitation.

He was also ushered to form ties between then-candidate Donald Trump and top foreign officials by other top campaign figures like the campaign’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon as well as adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, according to the report.

Papadopoulos is cooperating with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into Moscow’s meddling after pleading guilty last year.

The Trump administration has minimized Papadopoulos’s influence in the campaign, describing him as a low-level staffer who would go on coffee runs. 

After he pleaded guilty in late October, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE tweeted that “few people knew the young, low-level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.” 

Papadopoulos, however, had far more contact with top Trump campaign and transition officials than previously reported, emails described to the Post reveal.

Thomas Breen, an attorney for Papadopoulos, declined the Post’s request for comment as did a White House spokesman. Lanza also declined the outlet’s request for comment.

The emails paint Papadopoulos as a young researcher who eagerly showed a strong interest in working for Trump’s campaign team shortly after he announced his bid for the Oval Office, the Post reports. 

Throughout the campaign, he repeatedly sought to set up meetings or interviews with foreign officials or groups. 

For example, Papadopoulos told Trump’s newly named national security advisory group at a meeting in March that he could set up a meeting with Trump and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, according to the report that cites court documents.

In May, he forwarded an email to campaign officials in which a Russian contact of his said Russian foreign ministry officials were open to a visit by the candidate. The proposal was rejected. Then-campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' The Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table? Nadler: I don't understand why Mueller didn't charge Donald Trump Jr., others in Trump Tower meeting MORE emailed his longtime business partner, Rick Gates, that they needed to “communicate that DT is not doing these trips.”

Papadopoulos is the only known Trump associate who has told prosecutors about that the Russians had dirt on Trump’s political rival, Democratic candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin MORE.

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.

The special counsel, which is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin, has also charged 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian groups for their efforts to conduct “information warfare” on social media and other sophisticated measures. 

Trump has attacked Mueller's investigation as a “witch hunt,” maintaining that there was no coordination or collusion. 

The president's legal counsel is reportedly in talks with Mueller's team about setting up an interview with the investigative chief.