"I was set up to become some sort of patsy in this conspiracy, which I believe was designed for two reasons: one was to initially cover up that I was being spied on for other reasons," Papadopoulos told Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear Tuesday, "and two, to then use me and frame me to eventually undermine the Trump presidency and use me as some sort of conspiracy person that connects all the dots that never existed in the first place."
In October 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI in what was the first guilty plea of those charged in the Russia probe. In the two years since, he has become a household name. A former volunteer foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, he came to the attention of the FBI regarding his contacts in 2016 related to US-Russian relations. In the end, he took a plea to the throwaway charge of making a false statement. He now has a book out called "Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump."
Papadopoulos explained that in the summer of 2015, he went to Europe for work after his initial approach to the Trump campaign was rebuffed and Ben Carson's campaign fell apart. When he was preparing to leave after Trump did eventually approach him with an offer of work, he was invited by Arvinder Sambei, a co-director of the London Center of International Law Practice, to a conference on the Link Campus University in Rome, where he could meet well-connected people that would help him in future political work with the Trump campaign.
It was in March 2016 at the Link Campus, a CIA spy school that trained Italian intelligence services, that he met a Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud, who offered to introduce Papadopoulos to Eurasian politicos, including in Russia, and to be a liaison between the Trump campaign and Russia.
It was this meeting, which Papadopoulos says he misreported the date of to special counsel Robert Mueller's team, that got him charged.
However, Papadopoulos said the Trump campaign was in general ambivalent and noncommittal about the idea of a foreign policy trip to Russia, which the adviser suggested in order to present image of worldliness and diplomatic credentials to US public, not to coordinate with Russia.
Papadopoulos said he never told the Trump campaign about Mifsud's sudden revelations one night that the Russians ostensibly had "thousands" of Hillary Clinton's emails, because he "never found this person credible."
He noted that "in Europe there was open speculation that Hillary Clinton's personal server had been hacked, so when Joseph Mifsud told me this information I thought he was validating a rumor, but then I was confused as to how he could have had inside information when this person couldn't even introduce me to the Russian ambassador in London after I asked him to at least five times." The former adviser said he "gossiped about it with the Greek foreign minister," Nikos Kotzias, but never told Alexander Downer, then the Australian high commissioner to the UK, at a meeting at which Papadopoulos supposedly drunkenly blabbed about Russia having Clinton's emails.
However, Papadopoulos told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that Downer requested the meeting with him and that he believed the diplomat was recording him, so he remained "very cognizant of my surroundings at that meeting" — suspicions he said were later vindicated by conversations with FBI agents.
Papadopoulos told Sputnik he thought he was set up by US intelligence as a "patsy."
"I believe I had been under surveillance immediately upon joining the campaign. And then there was this understanding that I was trying to organize this meeting with Western intelligence asset Joseph Mifsud, and he drops this information in my lap, and they hoped that I would repeat it to the campaign, but I never did."
The former adviser said he was emailed out of the blue by Stefan Halper seeking a report on Greek and Cypriot politics at Cambridge University, where Halper heads the Department of Politics and International Studies. However, when they met in Britain, Papadopoulos says the scholar berated his opinions and asked very open-ended and leading questions about him and the Trump campaign's goals, which Papadopoulos forcefully rejected.
The adviser told Sputnik that when Halper asked those questions, he pulled out his phone "similarly to how Alexander Downer had done, so I suspected right away that he was spying or he was recording my conversation." Indeed, Halper was outed by US media as an FBI informant in May 2018 and, as the Intercept reported at the time, had also worked as a CIA operative to illegally spy on President Jimmy Carter's administration during the 1980 presidential election.
"The Reagan campaign — using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-vice-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush — got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration," the Intercept's Glenn Greenwald wrote. "The plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter's foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter was considering."
Papadopoulos said Halper was a spy, used to try and frame him as well as to "spy on me for my ties to the Israeli and Cypriot energy business, which I've been told I had a FISA warrant issued on me for, and that's why he paid me $3,000 and lured me to London, where the CIA has jurisdiction, not the FBI, and where MI6 has jurisdiction… obviously Stefan Halper has very close links to MI6," he said. Papadopoulos noted that Downer and Mifsud also have "suspicious links" to both each other and to MI6, the British intelligence agency.
Papadopoulos said he didn't speak out after being implicated because he had a gag order, but also the FBI threatened his girlfriend Simona, "because she knew too much about Joseph Mifsud and his connections to Italy," and she was serving as his voice during that period.
"Without her I would've had no credibility," he told Sputnik, "and I think that's actually why the Mueller team arrested me in the savagelike manner that they did, the reason they had me under a gag order and why they had me under a sealed indictment the way that they did, because they never wanted any of this story ever coming out. But unfortunately for them, it is coming out, and my testimony has been used by the Republicans to help launch new investigations into the investigators."
None of this, he noted, could have ever taken place without the initiative of the Obama administration and the cooperation of foreign governments.