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Ex-Trump aide says Mueller probe targeted him for ties with Israel, not Russia

George Papadopoulos tells Israeli radio that focus on business dealings in Jewish state shows the case against him was ‘corrupted’

George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who triggered the Russia investigation, arrives for his first appearance before congressional investigators, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, October 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who triggered the Russia investigation, arrives for his first appearance before congressional investigators, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, October 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

George Papadopoulos, a former adviser in Donald Trump’s 2016 US presidential election campaign, has claimed in an interview to an Israeli radio station that his interrogations as part of the probe led by Robert Mueller were focused on his ties with Israel, not Russia.

Speaking Saturday to Army Radio, Papadopoulos said his business dealings in Israel were the “key” to his case.

“What I was really targeted for by the Mueller team and these individuals had nothing to do with Russia; it had to do with my work in Israel and my work as an energy lobbyist,” he said.

Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign’s former foreign policy adviser, served a 14-day prison sentence after admitting he lied to the FBI about a 2016 conversation with a Maltese professor who told him that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of stolen emails.

Information about Papadopoulos’s contacts during the campaign started the FBI’s Russia investigation.

US President Donald Trump arrives at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida on March 22, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

Asked during Saturday’s interview about the Mueller probe’s finding that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, Papadopoulos said: “I believe it’s a total vindication for both the campaign, the transition team and current administration.”

He added that he thought a new investigation would now be opened “into those who committed this unlawful, unjust witch hunt, as the president calls it. I never met a single Russian official in my entire life, even on the Trump campaign. All these characters in my story that were described falsely by the FBI and Bob Mueller to be Russians were in fact Western intelligence operatives that were sent to try and sabotage the Trump campaign.”

Asked whether he thought Trump would now issue an order pardoning him, Papadopoulos said, “My lawyers think he might issue it, I don’t have an expectation though. I believe that the foundation of my case was corrupted, as President Trump will see that the entire Mueller investigation surrounding me was my work with Israel and not with Russia.”

A redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation will be sent to Congress by mid-April and will not be shared with the White House beforehand, US Attorney General William Barr said Friday.

Barr’s timeline, included in a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees, sets up a possible showdown with House Democrats, who are insisting they see the full report this week.

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller walks, after attending church, on March 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)

In his letter, Barr said he shares a desire for Congress and the public to be able to read Mueller’s findings, which are included in the nearly 400-page report the special counsel submitted March 22. Two days later, Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress that detailed Mueller’s “principal conclusions.”

Barr said Trump would have the right to assert executive privilege over parts of the report. But he noted that Trump “has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review.”

Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with Russia, Barr wrote, and did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided on their own that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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