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George Papadopoulos doubts FBI was behind woman probing for Trump-Russia intelligence

CNN logo CNN 5/4/2019 By Caroline Kelly, CNN
George Papadopoulos wearing a suit and tie: Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos goes through security at the U.S. District Court in Washington in 2018.  © ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos goes through security at the U.S. District Court in Washington in 2018. 

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos expressed doubt Saturday that the woman he met in London in September 2016 — who reportedly posed as an academic's assistant to try to seduce him and determine whether the Trump campaign had ties to Russia — was an FBI agent.

Papadopoulos' comments made to CNN's Michael Smerconish on Saturday come following reporting from the New York Times  — published on Friday and citing people familiar with the operation — that said the woman he met in London two months before the 2016 presidential election was a federal investigator sent by the FBI to determine whether Trump's 2016 presidential campaign was working with Russia. Papadopoulos spent two weeks in prison for lying to federal investigators, an early charge in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Papadopoulos said that when academic and FBI informant Stefan Halper — who he said he did not previously know — flew him to London under the guise of consulting work on the Middle East energy business, Halper arranged for Papadopoulos to go out for drinks with his assistant, a Turkish woman who he said was named Azra Turk.

"I was a little suspicious about it because I didn't have any understanding why I was meeting a different person, especially a Turkish national," Papadopoulos told Smerconish. "I mean that's why I disabused the claim that this was some sort of FBI agent."

The woman "barely spoke English, she was very flirty," Papadopoulos said, and probed on two subjects — his energy sector experience in the Middle East and "Trump and Russia."

Papadopoulos said the meeting was "bizarre" and fruitless because "of course there is no conspiracy, and I have never even met a Russian official in my life." He added that the woman did not offer him sex "overtly, but made it very clear that that was on the table if we continued to enjoy each other's company."

The Times reported that the FBI sent Halper and Turk to meet with Papadopoulos in London as part of the agency's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. The FBI told CNN Saturday that it had no comment on the matter.

Halper set up a meeting with Papadopoulos, flying him to London to write a policy paper on Israel and Cyprus energy issues for $3,000. The agency sent Turk, whose real name is unknown, posing as Halper's assistant to provide oversight, gather intelligence and potentially provide testimony about the operation, the Times reported.

British intelligence agencies were aware of the FBI's work but could not confirm its involvement, people familiar with the operation told the Times. The Times was unable to confirm whether British intelligence agencies were involved in the operation. CNN has reached out to the British government for comment.

Papadopoulos questioned whether the FBI was behind the operation and accused the British government of playing a role in the meeting.

"The profile did not match an FBI operation, it was in London," he told Smerconish, adding that he met with British government officials the same day he met Turk and Halper.

"This was very well-planned, I believe the British were involved in this," he said, adding: "So why would the FBI be operating in London? It just doesn't make sense to me."

President Donald Trump was quick to portray reports of the FBI's attempts to glean information about his campaign as a political scandal.

"Finally, Mainstream Media is getting involved — too 'hot' to avoid. Pulitzer Prize anyone?" Trump tweeted Friday. "The New York Times, on front page (finally), 'Details effort to spy on Trump Campaign.' @foxandfriends This is bigger than WATERGATE, but the reverse!"

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