>> President Trump calls him a liar. The White House says he's unimportant. But George Papadopoulos, the low level campaign aide now working with prosecutors in the Russia probe, is serving up details that could rope in people closer to the White House. I'm Andy Sullivan in Washington where legal experts say that Trump's team has plenty to worry about after special counsel Robert Mueller filed the first criminal charges in the Russia probe.
George Papadopoulos may have been a peripheral player in the campaign, dismissed as a coffee boy by one Trump insider. But he's giving Mueller's team plenty of evidence that top Trump officials were at least open to working with the Kremlin during last year's campaign. That's giving Mueller more leverage to go after other people.
It's a classic white collar crime investigation, start at the bottom and work your way up. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, admitting that he tried for months to set up a meeting with the Kremlin. And he's providing emails, showing that senior campaign officials encouraged the effort.
Those officials aren't named, but sources tell Reuters one of them is none other former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. They say it was Manafort who sent an email to Papadopoulos proposing someone low down in the campaign should meet with Russia to better avoid scrutiny. The White House says those emails were never acted on.
Manafort himself has been charged with trying to launder at least $18 million from a Russia friendly Ukrainian government. Trump's been saying for the past few months that there's no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russia to win the White House last year. Now that there is evidence of what prosecutors refer to as, quote, coordination, Trump is saying that the man who provided that evidence is a nobody who had no influence in the campaign.
That may be the case. But George Papadopoulos is providing a road map for Mueller's team to go after the people who are actually calling the shots.