Trump Campaign Adviser Who Pled Guilty to Lying to FBI Has Surprising Ties to Israeli Settlers

George Papadopoulos met with an Israeli settler leader during Trump's inauguration week and has lobbied for Israeli energy cooperation

Amir Tibon
Allison Kaplan Sommer
U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington D.C., on Oct 23, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington D.C., on Oct 23, 2017Credit: Evan Vucci/AP
Amir Tibon
Allison Kaplan Sommer

WASHINGTON - George Papadopoulos, foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, pled guilty on October 5 for lying to the FBI about that campaign's ties to Russia. Papadopoulos met on the week of Trump's presidential inauguration with an Israeli settler leader, and promised him that the Trump administration would have a favorable policy regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The meeting was reported at the time by the right-wing, pro-settlements website Arutz Sheva.

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday unveiled an indictment against Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos pled guilty to the charges against him.

>> Read full indictment against George Papadopoulos <<

His indictment means that the probe being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is focusing on meetings arranged by Papadopoulos last year between members of U.S. President Donald Trump's inner circle, including his son, son-in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin.

>> Conspiracy against America: The full charges against Manafort <<

According to the charges against Papadopoulos, he made "material false statements" about that meeting in an interview with the FBI on January 27th.

Papadopoulos was asked about contacts he had with a Russian individual who promised to provide the Trump campaign with "dirt" on Hilary Clinton and her personal correspondences. Papadopoulos told the FBI that his contacts with that Russian individual took place before he began working for the campaign, but it turns out that this was a false statement - in reality, the Russian individual and Papadopoulos spoke shortly after he joined the campaign, and the conversation focused on how the Russian individual could help the campaign attack Clinton.

The indictment also states that on April 30th, Papadopoulos thanked his Russian contact for his help in trying to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, which Papadopoulos defined as "history if it happens."

Three months after Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign, a meeting between a lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin and senior officials in the Trump campaign took place at Trump Tower in New York. The meeting included Trump's son, Donald Jr., Kushner, who currently works as a senior adviser in the White House. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager at the time, who was indicted on Monday for a "conspiracy against the United States" and for tax evasion of tens of millions of dollars, also attended that meeting. In internal correspondences prior to the meeting, promises of "dirt" regarding the Clinton campaign were mentioned as the main issue that will be discussed.

On Monday, Manafort and his associate Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts, in the first charges stemming from a special counsel investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Manafort and Gates surrendered to the FBI's Washington field office, CNN and the New York Times reported, each citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

Israeli ties

When Trump named Papadopoulos to his foreign policy advisory team the fact emerged that a central element of his short career had involved active public lobbying for energy cooperation between Israel, Greece and Cyprus, after significant natural gas resources were discovered in Israel.

At that time, the Washington Post noted that “people in energy policy circles in London, Washington and New York said they knew nothing of him.”

But during his time in the energy arena, Papadopoulos wrote Op-Ed pieces in Israeli news outlets - including one in Haaretz - arguing that the Israel should cooperate with Greece and Cyprus in its development of the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields and avoid excessive cooperation with Turkey.

He was particularly forceful in an article he wrote for the rightist outlet Arutz Sheva in 2014.A proposal to build a pipeline to Turkey in order to export gas to Europe, he said “is bereft of the political realities in the region and does not take into account the potentially devastating impact this option can have on Israel’s strategic relations with EU member Cyprus, and by extension, all of Europe” and that “regional economic cooperation between Israel and Cyprus should be the guiding principle that anchors Israel economically to Europe.”

The Washington Post piece on Papadopulos quoted Elizabeth Rosenberg, an energy expert at the Center for a New American Security noting that the young Trump adviser that “has argued for Israeli gas moving to Europe. If that eventually comes to pass it will compete with U.S. gas to Europe. The United States and Israel are allies, but whose team is he on?”

In another Arutz Sheva piece he wrote that, “Israel and Greece’s robust military relations have redrawn the political map of the region. The U.S. would be wise to shift its policies, and resources, towards improving relations at all levels with its stalwart allies in the region, Israel, Greece and Cyprus, to contain the newly emergent Russian fleet, and malignant jihadist forces operating around Israel’s borders.”

In January, 2017, the outlet reported on a visit to Israel by Papadopolous just after Trump’s inauguration, along with video of a meeting between the young adviser - who was not formally appointed at the time - and Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, and claiming that Papadoplous told Dagan that “Trump looks favorably on the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria.”

The article said the advisor “hinted” that Trump “would be well-disposed towards the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria” through his statements that "we are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship between the United States and all of Israel, including the historical Judea and Samaria."

Papadopoulos' lawyers said on Monday that "it is in the best interest of our client that we refrain from commenting on his case. We will have the opportunity to comment on his involvement when called up by the court at a later date. We look forward to telling all of the details of George's story at that time."

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