Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos told the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI wanted him to wear a wire to record conversations with an overseas professor who had told him the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton, but that he rejected their request.
Papadopoulos, who was charged and pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal prosecutors as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, told House lawmakers about the offer during a closed-door interview with the committee last year. The transcript of that interview was released Tuesday by committee Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga.
During his closed-door interview, Papadopoulos explained his relationship with Maltese Professor Joseph Mifsud, who said during an April 2016 meeting with him that the Russians had “dirt” that could damage Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Papadopoulos’ contacts with Mifsud were under scrutiny throughout Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates during the 2016 presidential election.
Papadopoulos testified that his first contact with the FBI was in the summer of 2016, when he was asked about a businessman named Sergei Millian, about hacking and about Russian interference. Papadopoulos said, though, that Mifsud was not brought up until he, himself, mentioned his name.
“I brought up his name and said a Maltese person named Joseph Mifsud told me that the Russians have thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails,” he testified last year.
Papadopoulos told lawmakers that it wasn’t until his second encounter with the FBI, in 2017, that he was asked to wear a wire.
“They basically tell me....we want you to wear a wire to go after Joseph Mifsud or to get some sort of information about him. I rejected it,” he told lawmakers. “So [FBI Agent Curtis Heide] asked me to wear a wire. 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.”
“I rejected it,” he added, noting that he did not have a lawyer present for his second meeting with the FBI.
Papadopoulos told lawmakers he wasn’t sure what to make of Mifsud’s claims 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.”
Later, Papadopoulos explained that during his third meeting with the FBI, “it didn’t even seem like they were that interested in Mifsud, actually, even during the third meeting.”
Meanwhile, Papadopoulos was asked about his relationship with Sergei Millian, a businessman who has now been revealed to have been behind some of the salacious material contained in the anti-Trump dossier.
Papadopoulos told lawmakers that Millian contacted him on Linkedin in late July 2016, stating that he “could be helpful in understanding the U.S.-Russia relationship, and he might be a good person to get to know.”
Papadopoulos explained that Millian acted “like he was very pro-Trump,” and offered to set up meetings for him with Russian-American leaders. Papadopoulos noted that he felt that Millian “might be recording my conversation with him.”
Papadopoulos went on to testify that Millian had offered him a consulting opportunity connected to an individual he knew in Russia. Papadopoulos, at the time of the conversation, was working on the Trump campaign but was considering next steps. He said Millian offered him $30,000 a month for the role.
Papadopoulos told lawmakers that during their meeting, he felt that Millian was “wearing a wire or he was setting me up for something about this proposal that he was talking about.” Papadopoulos told lawmakers that Millian told him that if he took the opportunity, he would “still have to work for Trump.”
“But then I felt that he wasn’t who he seemed to be and that he was working on behalf of somebody else when he was proposing this to me,” Papadopoulos explained, adding that the two later met in Chicago. “I felt that when he proposed this deal to me face-to-face that he might have been wearing some sort of wire. And he was acting very bizarre.”
He added: “Maybe I’m a paranoid person. But there were certain other events regarding Sergei Millian that made—that make me believe that he might have actually been working with the FBI.”
“He was looking at me with his eyes really bogged out, very nervous. And I just looked at him, like this guy is on an operation against me right now trying to set me up for something,” Papadopoulos said, adding that he rejected the offer because he thought it was illegal.
Papadopoulos went on to describe his next encounter with Millian, which took place during Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 in Washington.
“It was my understanding that he had been meeting with Senator McCain and some other members of Congress with an associate of his Aziz Choukri,” Papadopoulos said, adding that he later met Millian and Choukri for a drink.
“Aziz…in front of Sergei…said, Oh, you know, Sergei is working for the FBI,” Papadopoulos recalled. “A couple days later, before I’m interviewed by the FBI, he comes out on the front page, meaning Sergei Millian, as the source of the Steele dossier.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2017, after the salacious anti-Trump dossier was published by BuzzFeed News, that Millian was behind some of the materials contained in the document compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.
The dossier was used by the intelligence community and the FBI to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, and prompted the beginning of the Russia investigation.
On Tuesday, Papadopoulos told Fox News he was "certain" Millian was wearing a wire to record him when they met.
Papadopoulos was charged with making false statements in Mueller’s probe, which concluded over the weekend, and served 14 days in prison last year.
According to Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of Mueller’s findings, the special counsel found no evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, despite numerous offers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.