A young aide on President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign attempted several times to set up a meeting between Trump and "Russian leadership," including President Vladimir Putin, according to internal campaign emails.
Three days after George Papadopoulos was named one of Trump's foreign policy advisers in March 2016, he sent an email to seven other campaign officials with the subject line, "Meeting with Russian Leadership – Including Putin," the Washington Post reports.
The emails, which were read to the Post, were among more than 20,000 pages of documents that were transferred from the Trump campaign to congressional committees this month.
Papadopoulos was a volunteer for the campaign and had very little foreign policy experience. He had been in the Model U.N. program in college, from which he graduated in 2009.
Senior Trump campaign officials were uncomfortable with Papadopoulos' March email, which offered to set up "a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump."
Sam Clovis, a campaign co-chairman, said that he wanted NATO allies to be consulted with first, while another Trump adviser, retired Navy Rear Adm. Charles Kubic, said that such contacts could pose multiple legal issues, for potentially violating the Logan Act and American sanctions against Russia. Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort was also against having Trump meet with Russian officials.
But Papadopoulos' Russian contacts were enthusiastic about a potential meeting between Trump and Putin, according to the Post. Despite reservations from top campaign officials, Papadopoulos, a self-described energy consultant, sent at least six requests between March and September for Trump, as he turned from primary candidate to party nominee, or for members of his team to meet with Russian officials.
A spokesman for Manafort, Jason Maloni, said in a statement that these campaign emails provide "concrete evidence that the Russia collusion narrative is fake news," citing Manafort's efforts to stop Trump-Russia meetings.
"Mr. Manafort's swift action reflects the attitude of the campaign — any invitation by Russia, directly or indirectly, would be rejected outright," Maloni said.