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DePaul alumnus becomes key figure in Russian collusion investigation

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A DePaul alumnus has become an unlikely linchpin in the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

George Papadopoulos, who graduated from DePaul with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2009, pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his role in trying to set up “off the record” meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. The little-known foreign policy adviser has become the focus of national intrigue since the announcement of his arrest and guilty plea.

Students of political science professor Clement Adibe also said that he had been invited to speak to their Introduction to Foreign relations class this fall.

George Papadopoulos became a national figure overnight after revelations that the little-known foreign policy adviser had actively tried to set up meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
(Photo courtesy of Hudson Institute)

Papadopoulos’ plea agreement states that he “had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President (Vladimir) Putin.” Someone named in the documents only as the “Professor,” (who The Washington Post has identified as Professor Joseph Mifsud, director of the London Academy of Diplomacy) introduced Papadopoulos to someone identified as the “Female Russian National” who told him that she was the niece of President Putin and could help set up meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials..

On April 22, 2016, the “Professor” and Papadopoulos met at a London hotel where the “Professor” said that high-level Russian government officials told him the Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, which became the infamous emails leaked by Wikileaks that led to revelations about the Democratic National Committee (DNC) favoring the Clinton campaign over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.

Papadopoulos grew up in the Chicago area, graduating from Niles West High School in Skokie. His political career began when he started working with Ben Carson’s campaign as a foreign policy adviser. He had so few real-world qualifications that he embellished his resume extensively.

On his LinkedIn, Papadopoulos listed attendance at the 2012 Geneva International Model United Nations as foreign policy experience. Two people who were part of the delegation that year, including Antony Papadopoulos (no relation), current secretary general of the Geneva program, said they had no recollection of him being there.

Papadopoulos also claimed he gave the keynote address at the 2008 annual American Hellenic Institute Foundation Conference. The conference agenda for that year listed Papadopoulos as a participant on a youth panel with other students; it lists 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis as the keynote speaker.

Papadopoulos was described by a past professor as being relatively nondescript during his time at DePaul.

“He was pretty invisible and conventional,” said Richard Farkas, a political science professor at DePaul who taught Papadopoulos. “He was not really an outstanding student.”

There has now been speculation that he had worn a wire in meetings with other Trump campaign officials after being arrested because of references to him being a “proactive cooperator” in court documents, a phrase that legal experts say could refer to his wearing a wire in meeting with Trump administration officials, an act that Farkas said Papadopoulos would have found “adventuresome.”

When asked how Papadopoulos, at only 30, rose to foreign policy advisor to two presidential campaigns, Farkas said that if he was asked by a student how to reach that level after graduation, “I would have told them to go and get twenty years of experience in foreign policy, and the presidential candidate would find them. The sort of person who thinks they can do that has to be a little arrogant. I could see George thinking of himself like that.”

Professor at the DePaul College of Law Gregory Mark, who also worked as for the independent investigation of the Iran-Contra affair, said that it’s too early to see parallels between Iran-Contra and the Russian collusion investigation, but he believes the Russian investigation is more serious than that.

“In Iran-Contra, there was no involvement in U.S. elections,” Mark said. “Here, we’ve got the probability that a foreign power tried to manipulate the American electorate.” 

The White House immediately sought to distance itself from Papadopoulos on Monday, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying his role within the campaign was “extremely limited” and that it was a “volunteer position”.

Trump himself tweeted on Tuesday morning that Papadopoulos was a “low level volunteer”.

However, these claims don’t match previous statements by the Trump campaign or from Trump himself on the 2016 campaign trail.

In a March 2016 interview with the Washington Post editorial board, then-candidate Trump was asked about his foreign policy advisors and named Papadopoulos as an “oil and energy consultant, excellent guy”.

In the same month, Trump posted an Instagram photo of Papadopoulos, with the caption “Meeting with my national security team in #WashingtonDC.” Court documents related to Papadopoulos’ charges show that at that meeting Papadopoulos “introduced himself to the group” stating in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin. The New York Times confirmed on Thursday that both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions attended the meeting and that Trump “listened with interest” according to one J. D. Gordon, a campaign adviser who also attended the meeting.

This contradicts numerous statements by President Trump denying connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.

About the Writer
Benjamin Conboy, Editor in Chief

Benjamin Conboy is the editor-in-chief of The DePaulia for the 2018-19 school year. When he's not writing or reading about Chicago politics, he's hanging...

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DePaul alumnus becomes key figure in Russian collusion investigation