Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

FBI actively investigating Papadopoulos days after his release from prison

Federal authorities out of Washington DC, working in coordination with Robert Mueller’s team, have in recent days sought to arrange an interview with the author of a letter sent to Congress last month that claimed that ex-Trump adviser George Papadopoulos coordinated with Russians in the weeks following the 2016 election. The person who wrote the letter is expected to travel to DC for an interview with the FBI about the claims, per two U.S. officials involved and the author of the letter. All three have requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The memo sent to Congressman Adam Schiff by a former confidant of Papadopoulos on November 19, as first reported by this reporter and Natasha Bertrand of the Atlantic, made a series of allegations against the ex-Trump campaign adviser. First and foremost, the letter claimed that in December 2016, Papadopoulos said “that he was doing a business deal with Russians which would result in large financial gain for himself and Mr. Trump. Mr. Papadopoulos told me that this deal with Russians would set him up for life.” The author also says that (s)he witnessed a phone call between Trump and Papadopoulos. None of the claims have been substantiated, though Congress plans to dig into the specific allegations.

The FBI’s interest in the letter and its writer signals that federal authorities are taking the allegations seriously and continue to investigate Papadopoulos even after he served 12 days in a federal prison for lying to investigators about his interactions with a Maltese professor who claimed that Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.

Patrick Boland, A spokesman for Congressman Schiff and Caroline Polisi, a lawyer for Papadopoulos did not immediately return a request for comment. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment.

Separately, this reporter has in recent weeks communicated with the author of the letter in which evidence was shared that proved their proximity to Papadopoulos in late 2016 and early 2017. The evidence includes messages and photos and the person’s identity was independently corroborated by a family member of Papadopoulos who confirmed that they had been aware of Papadopolous’s association with the person. Though none of the major claims in the letter have been substantiated, some of the underlying details have. Messages from Papadopoulos to the confidant included the phrase “I am set for life.” The Papadopoulos associate said that this message was in reference to a Russian business deal.

Message from Papadopoulos claiming he is “set for life”.

The FBI’s renewed interest in Papadopoulos and his purported Russian ties come as Papadopoulos and his wife, Simona Mangiante, have detailed his interactions with an alleged source for the Christopher Steele dossier, the enigmatic Sergei Millian.

The story surrounding the interactions between Millian and Papadopoulos has changed numerous times in recent months. On a podcast with Dan Bongino in early November (timestamp 43:35), Papadopoulos says that Millian reached out on LinkedIn in July 2016 and the two met in Chicago. In October 2016, Millian once again asked Papadopoulos to meet, saying that he had an interesting private sector offer. According to Papadopoulos, Millian said, “I have a deal for you for $30,000 a month, a great office in Manhattan, it’s simply PR…for some ex-Minister in Russia, but the qualifier is that you have to work for Trump at the same time and you can’t tell anybody.”

This version of events conflicts with the story told by Mrs. Papadopoulos. Speaking to the Daily Caller, Mrs. Papadopoulos stated that Millian “offered her husband a job working for the Russian energy company Bashneft.” Bashneft is a subsidiary Rosneft, the Russian conglomorate that Mr. Steele alleged was involved in a quid-pro-quo with Carter Page and other members of the Trump team.

The conflicting narratives about the offer from Millian to Papadopoulos in late 2016 add intriguing context to the underlying claims of the letter sent to Schiff.

Exclusively obtained photos and schedules for Russian energy events in the weeks before Millian contacted Papadopoulos show that the Belarus-born Millian hobnobbed with very senior Russian government officials, sharing stages with some of the most powerful leaders in the Kremlin.

Millian spent mid April 2016 in Moscow as part of the Russian government sponsored Oil&Gas Industry Week and the Russian-Chinese Energy Investment Forum. Photos of the events show Millian alongside Russian officials, including Deputy Energy Minister Kirill Molodtsov. Among the featured speakers at the opening of the Oil&Gas event included Alexander Torshin, then-Deputy Chairman of Central Bank of Russia and handler of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina.

Millian far left (left) and Millian far right (right) shares a stage with Russian and Chinese leaders
Kirill Molodtsov middle left and Alexander Torshin right

One panel in which Millian spoke included the most senior Russian government officials and business leaders, including the Vice Presidents of Rosneft, Lukoil, and Gazprom. The moderator for the event was Sergey Belyakov, a Russian intelligence-trained former Deputy Minister of Economic Development.

Translated schedule of energy event where Millian appeared alongside Russian elites.

In June 2016, Millian returned to Russia and attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. There, he was pictured with Oleg Deripaska and Alexander Novak, the current Russian Minister of Energy and member of President Putin’s inner circle. Novak also sits on the Board of Rosneft and Gazprom.

Deripaska and Millian (left), Novak and Millian (right).

Millian’s proximity to the powers-that-be in Russia in the weeks leading up to his outreach to Papadopoulos and other Trump campaign members raises new questions about why Millian attempted to communicate with members of the Trump team. The lack of clarity surrounding Millian’s interactions with Papadopoulos are expected to be of interest to Congressional investigators, who plan to talk to the ex-Trump aide after Democrats regain power in early January.

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