What George Papadopoulos did before joining the Trump campaign: a chronology
This is one in a series of articles about the Trump-Russia affair and the characters involved.
In 2016 George Papadopoulos was chosen as one of five foreign policy advisers to Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign — an appointment which eventually led to his arrest in the Trump-Russia investigation.
How and why Papadopoulos came to Trump’s attention is a mystery. At the time he was still only 28 and had little foreign policy experience. In an attempt to shed some light on that question the chronology below documents Papadopoulos’s activities before joining the Trump campaign. For further discussion of this, see separate article.
The record shows Papadopoulos’s main interest at the time was energy in the eastern Mediterranean, and Israeli production of natural gas in particular.
George Demetrios Papadopoulos was born in Chicago in August 1987. His parents were Greek immigrants, originally from Thessaloniki.
In 2009 he graduated from DePaul University in Illinois with a BA in political science and government. He then spent a year at University College London where he obtained an MSc in security studies.
After that, according to his CV, he was offered further postgraduate study at the London School of Economics but decided instead to join the Hudson Institute, a right-wing think tank in Washington.
March 17–24: In his CV, Papadopoulos claims he was “US representative” at the 2012 Geneva International Model United Nations. This claim has been disputed. Two people who were part of the delegation that year, including the current secretary general of the Geneva programme, told the Washington Post that they “had no recollection of him being there.” However, a video made by one of the participants does give a brief glimpse of someone resembling Papadopoulos (50 seconds from start).
July 16: Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor publishes an article by Papadopoulos about political violence in Greece.
October 22: Hudson Institute holds a one-day conference in Washington entitled “Power Shifts in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Emerging Strategic Relationship of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus”. Speakers include representatives from Greek, Cypriot and Israeli embassies, plus Bush-era Neocons Douglas Feith and David Wurmser. In his CV, Papadopoulos claims credit for setting it up:
“My vision resulted in the successful completion of the first ever conference on US-Greece-Israel-Cyprus political, commercial, and energy ties. This tripartite relationship that I have promoted has the potential to become the stabilising link of the post-Arab Spring structure in the Eastern Mediterranean that U.S. policy desperately seeks.”
January 29: In an article for Arutz Sheva (known in English as Israel National News), Papadopoulos warns against viewing Turkey as an ally of the United States:
“The US would be wise to shift its policies, and resources, towards improving relations at all levels with its stalwart allies in the region, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, to contain the newly emergent Russian fleet, and malignant jihadist forces operating around Israel’s borders.”
The article describes him as “a senior consultant” at the Hudson Institute and as “initiator of the first conference on US-Israel-Greece-Cyprus geopolitical developments”. Arutz Sheva has links to religious Zionism and the settler movement.
February 25: Turkish newspaper Hurriyet quotes Papadopoulos’s earlier comments published in Arutz Sheva.
March 1: Commentary Magazine publishes article by Arthur Herman, a “senior fellow” at Hudson Institute, entitled: “Will Israel be the next energy superpower?”
March 18: In a second article for Arutz Sheva, Papadopoulos argues that Israel should export its natural gas to Europe via Cyprus. The idea of exporting Israeli gas to Europe via a pipeline through Turkey, he says, is “bereft of the political realities in the region and does not take into account the potentially devastating impact this option can have on Israel’s strategic relations with EU member Cyprus, and by extension, all of Europe”. He adds: “Regional economic cooperation between Israel and Cyprus should be the guiding principle that anchors Israel economically to Europe.”
Again, the article descibes Papadopoulos “a senior consultant” at the Hudson Institute.
May 8–9: Papadopoulos speaks at the Fifth Annual Eastern Mediterranean Oil and Gas Conference, held in Cyprus. According to the organisers, Energy Stream CMG:
“The Conference brought international oil and gas business leaders, government policy decision makers together with investors to facilitate financial and commercial agreements in the natural gas industry of Cyprus and Israel. The aim of the conference was to achieve a round table discussion with the Cypriot government in order to promote investments and to bring natural gas companies and government leaders to Cyprus, the potential LNG hub in Eastern Mediterranean.”
June 20: Hudson Institute hosts a talk in Washington by Alexis Galanos, mayor-in-exile of Famagusta in the northern, Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus:
“Mayor Galanos brought fresh insight to the complex reunification debate by analyzing both the potential role of energy resources and the impact of the Cypriot government’s confidence-building measures. Mayor Galanos also explained how the return of the town of Famagusta to Cyprus can be the key to reaching a unification solution.”
In his CV, Papadopoulos says he “facilitated” the event.
October 10: Papadopoulos is one of 24 speakers at the First Annual London Oil and Gas Conference, organised by Energy Stream CMG. In his CV, Papadopoulos writes:
“As a keynote speaker, I discussed the geopolitics of the energy trade from the eastern Mediterranean; risk analysis of Israel and Cyprus’ various export options; and the burgeoning relations between the US, Greece, Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt.”
November 13: Hudson Institute hosts a talk on “shifting power dynamics in the eastern Mediterranean” by Professor Efraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Israel. In his CV, Papadopoulos says he “facilitated” the event.
December: Hudson Institute publishes a report by “senior fellows” Seth Cropsey and Eric Brown entitled: “Energy: The West’s Strategic Opportunity in the Eastern Mediterranean”. It says:
“The hydrocarbon strikes in the Levant Basin have revealed to the West a unique strategic opportunity to create a better and more secure future for the Eastern Mediterranean region. They demonstrate again that bountiful sources of energy exist, and that they exist outside the arc of unstable governments and those hostile to the international order …
“Developing these resources will enable the region’s democracies to proactively design and create an East Med security architecture that can be made to work for them and will help stabilise the region. The same abundance could be helpful in securing Turkey as a frontline state and, in time, to restore it as a key pillar and beneficiary of a law-based security order. Russia’s reasserted objectives in the region, as well as Iran’s, also can be turned back …
“US leadership, both diplomatic and strategic, is required to harness the full geostrategic potential of East Med energy and to use this to reverse a terrible and worsening regional security situation.”
“It is no surprise that the two democracies in the eastern Mediterranean [Cyprus and Israel], along with Greece, have joined in a relationship to balance Turkey.
“Vice President Biden might have bolstered this promising sign of effective regional cooperation by raising the possibility of Cyprus’s membership in NATO, lifting the embargo on weapons that the Cypriots can purchase to defend itself its littoral areas or increasing U.S.-Cyprus military-to-military cooperation.
“The Obama administration’s silence on these and other issues that would acknowledge the expanding shared strategic interests of the U.S. and Cyprus indicates that the current U.S. administration has yet to realise the large changes that have reversed Turkey’s progress toward moderate, secular governance.
“This reversal ends, at least in the foreseeable future, the hope that Turkey will emerge as the first country in history successfully to combine Islamism and democracy, while maintaining strategic relations with the world’s Jewish state.”
March: Hudson Institute publishes a 52-page report by Seth Cropsey: “US Policy and the Strategic Relationship of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel: Power Shifts in the Eastern Mediterranean”. In his CV, Papadopoulos says he “worked with” Cropsey on this, though he is not credited in the report.
June 15: Phileleftheros, the largest Greek-language newspaper in Cyprus, publishes a lengthy interview with Papadopoulos, who has been visiting in connection with a conference on US-Cyprus relations organised by the Hudson Institute.
July 20: In partnership with two consulting firms, Eco Energy and Benjamin Schlesinger & Associates, Hudson Institute submits a report on offshore gas drilling to the Israeli energy ministry. The six-page report, issued in Hebrew, names Papadopoulos and Cropsey as two of its co-authors. The report is discussed further on the Desmog website.
August 12: The Jerusalem Post quotes Papadopoulos in an article on Israeli-Turkish relations:
“George Papadopoulos, a researcher at the Hudson Institute in Washington, told the Post that he did not see a precedent for building ‘peace pipelines’ to improve relations, referring to Israel’s efforts to export natural gas reserves to Europe via a pipeline, possibly traversing Turkey.
“Energy deals are usually the effect of good neighborly relations, not the cause, he said, adding that constructing the pipeline without first ensuring stable relations was ‘a risk that neither Europe nor Israel can afford’.
“ ‘If Turkey’s secular minority and Western-oriented opposition were able to retake the country from the iron grip of the Islamists, the answer may be yes,’ Papadopoulos argued.”
September: Papadopoulos leaves the Hudson Institute and joins Energy Stream as an oil and gas consultant.
October 15: Writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Papadopoulos says antitrust laws are impeding the development of Israel’s offshore gas industry:
“Policy indecision about how to apply antitrust laws in the case of Noble Energy and Delek Group, which control nearly all of Israel’s natural gas production, have caused the companies to suspend development of Leviathan and expand production at the Tamar field.
“Israel cannot afford further delays. Faced with an increasingly unstable Middle East, Israeli regulators must take into account the nation’s vital interests by resolving the antitrust issues quickly and creating the foundation for signing long-term gas contracts between Israel and its neighbors — not only Egypt, but Jordan, Cyprus and potentially Europe.”
October 26–27: Papadopoulos speaks at Energy Stream’s Second Annual London Oil and Gas Conference.
November 23: At the Israel Energy & Business Convention in Tel Aviv, Papadopoulos takes part in a panel discussion on energy cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean. Noble Energy and Delek Group are shown on the conference website among its “gold sponsors”.
December 18: Natural Gas World publishes an “exclusive” interview with Papadopoulos, who it describes as “an expert on geopolitics and energy”. In the interview, Papadopoulos says Israel should focus on exporting gas to Egypt rather than Turkey:
“There is burgeoning demand in Egypt. Why risk building a pipeline to a very problematic country that is not only occupying Cyprus right now, which has no relationship with the island, but with whom Israel has no ambassador, no political relationship, except at the minimum?”
This, he says, would also help to stabilise Egypt’s Sisi regime “which for the entire region must survive”.
December: Papadopoulos leaves Energy Stream and joins Ben Carson’s presidential campaign in the US, where he works for six weeks and is paid $8,500.
January: Carson presidential campaign is failing and begins shedding staff. Papadopoulos leaves.
February: Papadopoulos takes up a post in the UK as head of the Centre for International Energy and Natural Resources Law & Security at the London Centre of International Law and Practice (LCILP).
March: On or about March 6, Papadopoulos learns that the Trump campaign wants him as an adviser.
NOTE: Shortly afterwards, Papadopoulos became involved in the Trump-Russia affair, which is documented in a separate chronology. The remainder of this chronology covers only those activities relating to Israel and the eastern Mediterranean.
March 7–8: Papadopoulos attends LCILP conference in London: “Energy Arbitration & Dispute Resolution in the Middle East & Africa”. He is not listed as a speaker.
March 21: Trump names Papadopoulos as one of five foreign policy advisers for his campaign.
April: Papadopoulos visits Israel and, according to his CV, speaks at the Hadera Energy Tech Conference in Tel Aviv (April 4–5). He also has lunch at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and gets a write-up in the Jerusalem Post:
“… the young, impressive energy expert George Papadopoulos, was in Israel this week. Over lunch with research associates of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, he expounded on what he says is Trump’s prism on global affairs.
“It goes like this: Unlike President Barack Obama, who weakly attempted to ‘reset’ relations with Russia and then spent the latter part of his tenure isolating and sanctioning Russia, Donald Trump would ‘overtly seek’ serious engagement with Russia on a range of common concerns.
“Trump, says Papadopoulos, sees Russian President Vladimir Putin as a responsible actor and potential partner. After all, he says, Russia had good trade relations with European countries and with Turkey before recent ‘incidents’ (the Russian invasion of Crimea; the Turkish shooting down of a Russian military jet). Russia has been careful not to cross NATO lines, he adds, an s been respectful of Israeli concerns in Syria and elsewhere, too.”
May: In Greece, Papadopoulos meets President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, defence minister Panos Kammenos, foreign minister Nikos Kotzias and former prime minister Costas Karamanlis.
July 20: Papadopoulos takes part in a panel discussion at an American Jewish Committee event in Cleveland, Ohio. A news report describes him as “director of the Center for International Energy & Natural Resources Law at the London Centre of International Law Practice”. The discussion appears to have been mainly about Iran.
September: Papadopoulos meets Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias, who is visiting New York for the UN General Assembly.
September: Hudson Institute and Haifa University jointly publish a report from the “Commission on the Eastern Mediterranean”. In the context of natural gas discoveries, the report argues strongly against what it sees as American disengagement in the region: “Disengagement from the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean does not actually isolate the United States; it simply forfeits America’s ability to shape events.”
October 7: The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies publishes a paper by Ariel Ben Solomon, a PhD candidate at Bar-Ilan University. Its executive summary says:
“Israel should rule out building a natural gas pipeline to Islamist Turkey because of the political risk involved. It should instead consider using LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] technology for export through Cyprus. Although this would be expensive, it would be a less risky and more durable option over the long term. This should be in addition to exporting to Jordan and possibly to Egypt.”
The paper continues:
Some still see Egypt as a viable option. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to US presidential candidate Donald Trump, says that Egypt “faces its worst power crisis in decades due to long-term inefficiencies in the gas sector and is desperate for imported gas until its own legacy production ramps back up.” Egypt is weighing importing gas from Israel and Cyprus.
“The Israeli Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, along with the Egyptian Zohr and Cypriot Aphrodite, have the potential to be the linchpins that transform the region into an integrated energy zone,” he said.
Accordingly, a strategic relationship between Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt could involve energy cooperation around a prospective Cyprus hub. These countries are all ideologically opposed to Islamist Turkey’s agenda, and Greece and Cyprus have their own historical reasons for preferring cooperation with Israel over Turkey.
Papadopoulos is reported to have made contact with Solomon in 2014 via LinkedIn: “Their correspondence picked up in September 2016 and continued until before the election, when Papadopulos went quiet.”
November 6: Speaking in Greek, Papadopoulos addresses the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York and says he personally will counsel Trump to ensure “new relations, better relations, between Greece, America, and Cyprus”. A YouTube video shows Papadopoulos at the event.
November 8: US presidential election.
November 9: Tweet from Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos congratulates Trump on his victory and hails Papadopoulos too.
November 22: In London, Conservative Friends of Cyprus and Conservative Friends of Israel hold their first joint meeting in the Houses of Parliament. A Facebook post about this event was “liked” by Papadopoulos using this Facebook account. Those attending included the High Commissioner of Cyprus, the Ambassador of Israel, Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood, Theresa Villiers MP and Eric Pickles MP.
December: Papadopoulos visits Greece again, giving impression he will be working in Trump administration. His visit includes a meeting with the chief of the conservative opposition, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a talk to Greek mayors in Thessaloniki (December 1) and a TV interview (December 4).
January 20: Trump inaugurated as president; Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos, in Washington for the ceremony, meets Papadopoulos.
January 22: In Washington, Papadopoulos meets group of Israelis headed by Yossi Dagan, a leader of the West Bank settler movement, who had reportedly been invited to Trump’s inauguration. A brief video clip shows Papadopoulos with Dagan and, adopting Israeli terminology for the occupied West Bank, Papadopoulos says:
“We had an excellent meeting with Yossi and, er, we hope that the people of Judea and Samaria will have a great 2017. We are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship with all of Israel.”
January 27: Papadopoulos interviewed by FBI. Makes false statements.
February 16: Papadopoulos interviewed by FBI for a second time, with his lawyer present.
February 17: Papadopoulos de-activates his Facebook page.
February 23: Papadopoulos changes his mobile phone number
March 24: Papadopoulos meets Israeli settler activist David Ha’ivri. On Twitter, Ha’ivri posts a photo of them together, with a comment saying “Wonderful spending the afternoon with my good friend George Papadopoulos.”
Ha’ivri is reportedly the person who introduced Papadopoulos to businessman Charles Tawil who, according to special counsel Mueller, Papadopoulos “believed was likely an intelligence officer of a foreign country”.
July: Papadopoulos takes his girlfriend, Simona Mangiante, for a break on the Greek island of Mykonos where, according to Papadopoulos, they had some strange encounters. Rolling Stone magazine reports:
Among them was an Israeli businessman in his mid-sixties — the couple are now convinced he was an agent for the Mossad — who, she says, would later offer George $10,000 in cash. According to Simona, the payment was “not to be a consultant, just to, let’s say, ‘keep [his] engagements’.”
Later, in a court document, Trump-Russia special counsel Robert Mueller says Papadopoulos has admitted to receiving about $10,000 in cash “from a foreign national whom he believed was likely an intelligence officer of a foreign country (other than Russia)”.
Although the “Israeli businessman” has not been publicly identified by Mueller or by Papadopoulos and his wife, according to the Daily Caller his name was Charles Tawil and he had flown specially to Mykonos. He invited the pair to Israel but only Papadopoulos agreed to go.
The Daily Caller’s report says Tawil handed the $10,000 to Papadopoulos in a hotel room in Israel and it was the first instalment of what was intended to be a monthly retainer. Papadopoulos appears to have been becoming wary at this point because instead of taking the money back to the US he deposited it with a lawyer in Greece.
July 27: Papadopoulos is arrested at Dulles international airport, Washington, arriving on a flight from Munich.