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Politics

Who is George Papadopoulos, the ex-Trump aide in the Russia probe who is running for Katie Hill’s seat?

George Papadopoulos
George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign advisor who triggered the Russia investigation, talks to reporters after his first appearance before congressional investigators in October 2018. He has filed to run for California’s 25th Congressional District seat.
(Mary Clare Jalonick / Associated Press)

The former Trump campaign aide who sparked the Russia investigation says he is running for the northern Los Angeles County congressional seat being vacated by resigning Rep. Katie Hill.

George Papadopoulos, who spent two weeks in jail for lying to the FBI agents, filed to run for the seat with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

“I’m smelling blood in the water now that Katie Hill has resigned. California’s 25th congressional district is wide open for the taking,” he tweeted on Sunday, the day Hill, a Democrat, announced she would step down from the seat. “Someone has to step up. I love my state too much to see it run down by candidates like Hill. All talk, no action, and a bunch of sellouts.”

Papadopoulos, 32, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to federal agents in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election; he was sentenced in September 2018.

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Assemblywoman Christy Smith, the top Democrat in the race, poked fun at Papadopoulos for not living in the district.

“Welcome to the race. Hey, guess what? This is California, and as soon as you can identify my district on here, you let us know,” Smith, of Santa Clarita, said in a Twitter video on Tuesday, standing before a map of the state. “CA-25 belongs to CA-25.”

Members of Congress do not have to reside in the district they represent. The FEC filing lists his address as near Hollywood. Attempts to reach Papadopoulos’ campaign were unsuccessful, and his campaign website leads to an error message.

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Hill announced on Sunday that she planned to resign from Congress amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with subordinates and the release of intimate pictures. She has acknowledged having a relationship with a campaign staffer but denies having had one with a congressional aide. In a video statement Monday, she blamed her estranged husband and a campaign by “the right-wing media and Republican opponents” for the allegations against her.

Her resignation sparked politicians in both parties to eye the district, which was held by Republicans in recent decades until Hill won it in 2018 as part of the “blue wave” that helped Democrats retake control of the House.

Smith immediately announced her candidacy. Secretary of State Alex Padilla had indicated interest in the race, but he said Wednesday that he had decided not to run.

Five Republicans had filed to run before Hill’s announcement, with former Navy pilot Mike Garcia and Lancaster City Councilwoman Angela Underwood Jacobs the biggest fundraisers in the race, according to FEC disclosures. Another Democrat had previously filed to run but has not raised any money.

Papadopoulos came to investigators’ notice during the 2016 campaign after he told an Australian diplomat that Russians had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. After hacked emails were released that summer, the diplomat informed U.S. officials and the counterintelligence investigation began.

About a week after Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, FBI agents interviewed Papadopoulos. The former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign lied about his April 2016 conversation with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor working in London who had ties to Russian officials. Papadopoulos said Mifsud told him Russians had “thousands of emails” involving Clinton, but he claimed he had not joined the Trump campaign when they spoke.

The FBI met with Mifsud in the U.S. in early 2017, but Papadopoulos’ lies “undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the professor or potentially detain or arrest him,” prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III argued before his sentencing.

The judge in the sentencing said that by lying to the FBI in hopes of maintaining his shot at a job in the Trump administration, Papadopoulos placed “self-interest over the national interest.”


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