DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK
Convicted Ex-Trump Adviser George Papadopoulos Fights to Become the Next Big Fox News Star
Asked if aides and those close to Trump see Papadopoulos as an ongoing liability, one White House official replied that they see him generally as a ‘clown trying to make a buck.’
Late last year, George Papadopoulos, a lower-tier foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, found himself at the center of the Russia investigation. He was facing a prison sentence, his life picked apart by the press, disowned by prior associates, and rejected and publicly belittled by President Donald Trump, who denounced Papadopoulos as a “proven” liar.
Even his old Russian politics professor at DePaul University was making fun of him on the record.
Most operatives and political figures who face legal jeopardy in the Robert Mueller investigation have taken decidedly quiet routes, forgoing frequent media appearances or large social-media footprints. Papadopoulos has, conspicuously, taken a polar-opposite approach.
Nowadays, he is a married man, freely hate-tweeting the so-called “Deep State” and acting like he’s auditioning for the role of Fox News regular.
A source close to Papadopoulos told The Daily Beast that the former Trump campaign figure has become chummy with Sean Hannity, one of Fox’s biggest stars and one of President Trump’s top confidants. Papadopoulos plans to be a guest on the show in the upcoming week.
Earlier this month, he excitedly announced the beginning of what could shape up to be his Trump-loving media tour: He tweeted out that he and Simona are set to appear in late-October on the Fox News program hosted by Jesse Watters, another Trump favorite and unapologetic defender of the president.
It’s just one way Papadopoulos—who one year ago was practically left for dead by the entirety of Trumpworld—is vying to get back in the game. The source close to Papadopoulos said that the former Trump hand has also talked about eventually trying to return to foreign policy work. But first, he wants to share his side of the events that led to the FBI opening an investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
In the meantime, he’s back on Twitter, echoing the various Deep State-related conspiracy theories parroted and amplified by the president’s preferred cable-news personalities. He’s also gunning to do a lot of TV and media.
“Whatever I post or say on TV is all backed up with evidence,” Papadopoulos told The Daily Beast on Friday. “I think a lot of questions will be answered after my testimony on the Hill. Regarding TV, [I] am just getting my story out there. It’s up to America to decide if they like what [I] am saying or not.”
On Thursday, Papadopoulos is expected to testify voluntarily behind closed doors before lawmakers on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, as part of the Republican-led investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigations and Hillary Clinton’s emails.
A Democratic staffer with direct knowledge of the oversight committee’s activity said that Papadopoulos’ planned interview has generated more media interest than any of the other possible witnesses discussed before him.
“The only potential witnesses for whom there’s been even as close to as much media interest for this House investigation are Rod Rosenstein and James Comey,” the staffer assessed, based on a surge in recent weeks of numerous TV news outlets, print publications, and photographers inquiring for confirmation and details. “People are expecting a circus, and are trying to be there to witness it.”
It’s exactly how Papadopoulos wants it.
As The Daily Beast reported last month, Papadopoulos has also been shopping around a Trump-boosting book, and landed himself a book agent at David Vigliano’s shop, an agency that largely focuses on celebrity books but has represented pro-Trump players like Jeanine Pirro, a Fox host and the president’s longtime friend.
Last year, when Papadopoulos became a central fixture in Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and Trump associates, the president claimed on Twitter that “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.”
At the time, former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo famously knocked Papadopoulos as a mere “coffee boy” who didn’t actually know anything valuable about Team Trump, even though it would later emerge that Papadopoulos had more of a substantive impact during the presidential run than some senior aides were ready to admit. For instance, two months before the election, the adviser helped arrange a meeting between Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the New York Times reported.
By now, even some of his harshest former critics in Trumpworld have come around.
“Nowadays I find myself retweeting George Papadopoulos more than [I do] the President,” Caputo, himself a peripheral figure in the Trump-Russia investigations, told The Daily Beast. “I’m certain George has important and shocking information to share with investigators…He has an important role to play in discovering and prosecuting the anti-Constitutional spying operation [against Trump]—and he clearly wants to play it.”
Caputo added, “I really think his country failed him and I’m amazed at his fortitude.”
Barry Bennett, a senior adviser on the 2016 Trump campaign turned federal lobbyist, was markedly more muted in his encouragement of Papadopoulos, as the latter attempts a career revival.
“He’s trying to cash in on his celebrity,” said Bennett, who says he hired Papadopoulos (whom he dubs “Dumb George”) to do foreign policy work on Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. Around the same time Bennett moved over to Team Trump in early 2016, so did Papadopoulos.
“It’s a free country, go make some money, but don’t overplay your hand,” Bennett continued. “His celebrity is all because he got arrested…He wasn’t a player, and he still isn’t. I’m not rooting against him. I don’t root against anybody.”
Every step of the way lately, Papadopoulos has been joined by his new wife and biggest cheerleader Simona, who acted, essentially, as a media surrogate last year when he was under the gun of the Mueller probe. In the time since, she has had to fend off speculation that she is in fact a Russian spy, but has not yet publicly wavered on her mission to clear her husband’s name.
One White House official told The Daily Beast that aides in Trump’s West Wing have indeed taken notice of the pair’s online antics. Some, apparently, find it amusing, with the official saying that it looked like the Papadopouloses were trying to reinvent themselves as the next big “MAGA power couple.” Asked if aides and those close to Trump see George as an ongoing liability, the official replied that they see him generally as a “clown trying to make a buck.”
In response to this charge, Simona simply messaged The Daily Beast, “We are loyal to the truth and…to each other.” She said that while “we have been through a lot” and “survived the distress of a federal investigation…we are still together.”
“Yes we are a power couple,” she wrote, punctuating the statement with a smiley face emoticon.