A former adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with Russian agents after he was threatened with charges of acting as an unregistered agent for Israel, the adviser’s wife claimed this week.
Simona Mangiante told the Daily Caller news site that her husband, George Papadopoulos, “pled guilty because [Robert Mueller’s prosecutors] threatened to charge him with being an Israeli agent.”
Mueller is leading the investigation into whether the Trump campaign had ties with Russia, and has indicted a handful of figures tied to the campaign, including Papadopoulos.
The special prosecutor’s office claimed to have evidence that the former adviser had worked on behalf of Israel without registering as a foreign agent under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, during a stint working as an energy consultant, before he joined the Trump campaign, the Washington Post reported.
The claim follows mounting reports that a boozy May 2016 meeting in London between Papadopoulos and then-Australian high commissioner to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer was arranged after an Israeli embassy official introduced Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.
The New York Times reported the involvement of the Israeli embassy in setting up that meeting in December.
At the end of last month, the Wall Street Journal wrote that it was Downer who took Papadopoulos’s claims from that meeting about the Russians holding dirt on Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign, kickstarting the process that eventually lead to Meuller’s probe.
Charging documents in Papadopoulos’s case make clear that during the presidential campaign he was told by a professor who claimed powerful connections to the Kremlin that Russia had dirt on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.
Papadopoulos, who is awaiting sentencing in the case and is cooperating with Mueller’s probe, served as a member of the foreign policy advisory panel to Trump during his election campaign.
In a guilty plea in October, he admitted to lying to federal investigators about his overtures to Russian agents on behalf of the campaign.
Simona Mangiante, a former attorney in the European Parliament who married Papadopoulos in March, said, “George had nothing to do with Russia” and was “absolutely not” involved in collusion.
Much of Papadopoulos’s work prior to the campaign seemed to center on the role of Greece and Cyprus in the development of Israeli natural gas.
He called himself a senior consultant at the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington, DC, and wrote op-eds in the Israeli media in 2014 and 2015 encouraging Israel to favor Greece and Cyprus over Turkey in its natural gas development policy.
During the 2016 US presidential campaign, he met with an Israeli settler leader and promised him that, if elected, Donald Trump would take a positive view of Israel’s West Bank settlements, the Haaretz newspaper reported last year.
In October 2017, he conferred with Israeli settlement leader Yossi Dagan during Trump inauguration festivities in Washington, according to a video uploaded to Twitter by a St. Louis-based journalist, Russel Neiss.
“We are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship between the United States and all of Israel, including the historic Judea and Samaria,” Papadopoulos can be heard saying, using the biblical term for the West Bank. “Toda raba,” he signed off in decently accented Hebrew before hugging Dagan.
Robert Mueller’s office refused to comment on Mangiante’s claims.
JTA and AP contributed to this report.