At a London bar in May 2016, after numerous drinks, Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos bragged to an Australian diplomat the Russians had obtained damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The diplomat reported the conversation to American officials, which prompted the FBI to launch their investigation of the Trump campaign and its connections to Russia.
On Thursday at a Chicago nightclub, Papadopoulos had some drinks and, in a conversation with a new acquaintance, allegedly made new and explosive claims about Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Papadopoulos, according to this new acquaintance, said that Sessions was well aware of the contact between Papadopoulos and Joseph Mifsud, an academic from Malta with high-level connections in Russia. Papadopoulos’ indictment revealed that Mifsud had told Papadopoulos that the Russians had “‘dirt’ on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails.'”
Jason Wilson, a computer engineer who lives in Chicago, told ThinkProgress that Papadopoulos said during their conversation that “Sessions encouraged me” to find out anything he could about the hacked Hillary Clinton emails that Mifsud had mentioned.
Wilson said he recognized Papadopoulos and his wife Simona Mangiante at Hydrate, a Chicago nightclub, on Thursday night at approximately 11 p.m. Wilson sat down their table and introduced himself. He said the couple, who were drinking vodka, were extremely friendly and a bit flattered that Wilson had recognized them.
After some conversation about the city and their marriage, Wilson turned the topic to the Russia investigation, asking Papadopoulos whether he thought Wilson would be disappointed when all the facts came out. Papadopoulos responded that things were “just getting started” and emphasized Sessions’ role, particularly his connection to Papadopoulos’ contacts with Mifsud.
Wilson provided ThinkProgress with a photo of Papadopoulos, Mangiante, and himself outside of Hydrate. The bar’s address is visible over Papadopoulos’ shoulder.
Simona Mangiante, in an interview with ThinkProgress on Friday night, confirmed that she was at Hydrate with George Papadopoulos on Thursday.
In an interview last December with ABC News, Mangiante said that Papadopoulos was “constantly in touch with high-level officials in the campaign.” Speaking on Friday with ThinkProgress, Mangiante said that Sessions was one of the officials in contact with Papadopoulos. “[Sessions] talked with George,” Mangiante said. She declined to provide further details.
Simona Mangiante, wife of George Papadopoulos: He had a “significant" role in the 2016 campaign and was "constantly in touch" with top Trump officials. https://t.co/cBFn2IXeU8
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 27, 2018
In a subsequent interview with ThinkProgress on Sunday about the details of Wilson’s account, Mangiante said that Papadopoulos talked with Wilson but insisted that he would not have discussed his interactions with Sessions because he is not allowed to discuss the details of the case. Asked to clarify whether it was Wilson’s account that was untrue or the underlying story about Sessions, Mangiante said the only thing she wanted to say on the record was “no comment.”
Mangiante called back later Sunday to say that she had talked to Papadopoulos and that he denied having shared any new details about the case with Wilson. “Those things also never happened,” she said. She did acknowledge that Papadapolous and Wilson were talking about the Russia investigation, however.
Mangiante also contacted Wilson over Twitter on Sunday evening to discuss this story, chalking up the situation to “a misunderstanding!” She said that “there is nothing George could reveal about the investigation apart from commenting what is already public.”
In his confirmation hearing in January 2017, Sessions claimed that he knew of no one on the campaign, including himself, who had contact with Russian officials. Sessions later acknowledged that he had personally met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least three times, but claimed the meetings were in his capacity as a U.S. senator.
In November 2017, Sessions acknowledged he attended a campaign meeting where George Papadopoulos said he had connections to Russian officials and offered to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin. Sessions said he did not mention that meeting earlier because he forgot about it. He emphasized that he still had “no clear recollection” of the meeting.
After his memory was “refreshed,” however, Sessions did recall communicating with Papadopoulos. “[T]o the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter,” Sessions said.
Reuters reported last month that three people who spoke to Robert Mueller had contradicted Sessions’ testimony about the meeting with Papadopoulos, including Sessions’ claim that “he opposed a proposal for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team to meet with Russians.”
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying about his activities, including his contacts with Mifsud, to the FBI. ThinkProgress was unable to directly contact Papadopoulos for comment. Mangiante said that he was not able to talk with the media.
A spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office declined to comment. A request for comment from the office of Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not immediately returned.
Casey Michel contributed additional reporting.