In addition to shady pro-Putin lobbyists Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, a third Trump campaign official was caught up today in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller: George Papadopoulos.
Who is George Papadopoulos, you ask?
The funny thing is, everyone was asking that same question in March 2016 when Trump announced his foreign policy team.
Papadopoulos was a 2009 graduate of DePaul University who still listed Model UN among his foreign-policy credentials.
His inexperience and lack of stature was noted at the time, but he quickly faded out of public view. He didn't fade out of view of Russia, according to the documents published along with his guilty plea.
Shortly after Papadopoulos agreed to be a Trump campaign adviser, a politically connected Russian professor reached out to him, the FBI states. Papadopolous also connected with a Russian woman in March 2016, and tried to set up meetings with her, other Russian officials, and the Trump campaign.
The legal problem: In earlier interviews with the FBI, Papadopoulos gave very different timelines and accounts of his dealings with the Russians.
Notably, the FBI document states that Papadopoulos hoped Russians could provide "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
So this does smell like collusion: A Trump campaign foreign policy adviser trying to work together with Russians to form common foreign policy aims and elect Trump.
In this way, it echoes what we know about another Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. The Page story was notable for being weird and incompetent, rather than conniving and dangerous.
The Papadopoulos story is similarly more farce than thriller. His inexperience and youth are the first reason. His behavior — according to the FBI he deleted his Facebook page, which documented his dealings with Russia, the day after his FBI interview — is also more JV than master spy. A final detail highlighting the absurdity of this situation:
Papadopoulos apparently thought the Russian lady was a niece of Vladimir Putin. The FBI says she wasn't.