When a Russian news agency reached out to George Papadopoulos to request an interview shortly before the 2016 election, the young adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump made sure to seek approval from campaign headquarters.
"You should do it," deputy communications director Bryan Lanza urged Papadopoulos in a September 2016 email, emphasizing the benefits of a U.S. "partnership with Russia."
The exchange was a sign that Papadopoulos — who pushed the Trump operation to meet with Russian officials — had the campaign's blessing for some of his foreign outreach.
Since Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts during the campaign and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump officials have sought to paint the 30-year old energy consultant as a lowlevel volunteer whose outreach to Russia was not authorized by the campaign — and in some cases, was actively discouraged.
But emails described to the Washington Post, which are among thousands of documents turned over to investigators examining Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign, show that Papadopoulos had more extensive contact with key Trump campaign and presidential transition officials than has been publicly acknowledged.
Among those who communicated with Papadopoulos were senior campaign figures such as chief executive Stephen Bannon and adviser Michael Flynn, who corresponded with him about his efforts to broker ties between Trump and top foreign officials, the emails show.
As late as December 2016, as President-elect Trump was preparing to take office, Papadopoulos tried to serve as a conduit for the defense minister of Greece, transmitting what he said was a proposal for a strategic alliance from the Russian-allied Greek official that was reviewed by both Bannon and Flynn, then in line to be national security adviser.
The previously undisclosed emails paint a portrait of a young researcher who demonstrated an early and intense interest in joining Trump's presidential bid, beginning in July 2015, just weeks after the celebrity mogul announced his candidacy — eight months before his name first publicly surfaced.
Thomas Breen, an attorney for Papadopoulos, declined to comment. A White House spokesman declined to comment.
In a tweet after Papadopoulos pleaded guilty, President Donald Trump wrote that "few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar." Another Trump campaign staffer dismissed Papadopoulos as a mere "coffee boy" during the campaign.
Papadopoulos is the only Trump associate known to have told prosecutors he had advance warning the Russians held emails that could be damaging to Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. A London-based professor told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had dirt on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, according to his plea agreement.
It is not known if Papadopoulos relayed that information to other campaign officials.
The young aide was not a central player in Trump's inner circle. At times, he appeared as a supplicant to his superiors on the campaign, who occasionally ignored his notes or appeared to rebuff him, the emails show. Shortly after joining the campaign, Papadopoulos was rebuked by campaign officials for giving an unauthorized interview to a British newspaper, the Post previously reported.
But the documents also indicate that amid Papadopoulos's advocacy of closer ties to Russia, he retained access to top officials — even after Trump's victory.