Mysterious Putin ‘niece’ has a reputation

Federal investigators have a reputation for a mysterious Russian lady who provided to badist dealer conferences between former Trump marketing campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Kremlin officers: Olga Vinogradova.

The identify, which has not beforehand been reported, has taken on new significance for federal investigators looking for to extra totally perceive the position of the lady, whom Papadapoulos initially described in emails to marketing campaign colleagues as “Putin’s niece,” earlier than later studying she was unrelated to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Papadopoulos referred to Vinogradova by identify in his campaign-era emails throughout the spring of 2016, sources inform POLITICO. Introduced to Papadopoulos in March of that 12 months by a London-based tutorial, Joseph Mifsud, she was a part of what federal investigators suspect might have been a Russian effort to infiltrate Trump’s marketing campaign group with the badistance of intermediaries, or “cut outs.”

Papadopoulos’s emails don’t make instantly clear who Vinogradova — who might have been utilizing an alias — labored for, the place she lived, or her connection to Mifsud, POLITICO discovered from one supply. The surname is pretty widespread in Russia, and POLITICO couldn’t independently decide who Vinogradova is.

Vinogradova has emerged as yet another shadowy determine within the still-unfolding story of contacts between Trump badociates and the Russian authorities. Russia’s intelligence providers rely closely on third-party cutouts with obscure or hidden ties to the Kremlin, together with lecturers, businessmen, oligarchs, and even “honey traps”: engaging ladies who lure their targets into illicit liaisons that can be utilized for blackmail.

Whether Vinogradova would possibly match into a kind of clbades is unclear, however the reply might be an vital puzzle piece for federal investigators making an attempt to grasp the Kremlin’s technique.

Mifsud didn’t reply to requests for remark. But in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica final week, he referred to Vinogradova as “just a student, a very good-looking one.” Papadopoulos’s curiosity in her, Mifsud mentioned, was “very different from an academic one.”

Papadopoulos was arrested in July, as a part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election. Among different costs, Papadopoulos pleaded responsible to mendacity to investigators about his contacts with Vinogradova.

The courtroom paperwork describe Vinogradova solely as a “Female Russian National.” Mifsud is described solely as a “Professor” however has confirmed to reporters that he’s the identical individual. He denies being a Russian agent.

According to courtroom paperwork citing Papadopoulos’s e-mail correspondence with marketing campaign officers, it was Mifsud who launched Vinogradova to Papadopoulos as “a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin” brokered a March 24, 2016 meeting between the two in London. (Papadopoulos went on to refer to Vinogradova as “Putin’s niece” in emails to Trump marketing campaign officers, however courtroom paperwork say he finally discovered she was unrelated to the Russian chief.)

Mifsud launched Vinogradova to Papadopoulos as somebody with high-profile ties to the Russian authorities, which was then looking for higher relations with the U.S. and an finish to western financial sanctions imposed over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

One Papadaooulos e-mail to Trump marketing campaign officers mentioned that the lady had provided “to rearrange a gathering between us and the Russian management to debate U.S.-Russia ties below President Trump.”

“I have already alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request,” Vinogradova mentioned in an e-mail to Papadopoulos in April, after Papadopoulos requested for badist arranging a visit to Moscow.

“As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced,” she added.

A lawyer for Papadopoulos declined to remark. Mifsud didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Mifsud, a Maltese tutorial with established ties to the Kremlin, informed Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had acquired “dirt” on then-prospective Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A couple of months later, in July, Wikileaks launched 1000’s of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee emails. The US intelligence group later concluded the leak of these emails was a part of a broader, Kremlin-directed effort to undermine the 2016 election and undercut Clinton’s candidacy.

Papadopoulos continued corresponding with Vinogradova all through the spring of 2016, together with a number of efforts to rearrange a gathering in Russia between the Trump marketing campaign and authorities connections Vinogradova presupposed to have.

Trump marketing campaign officers inspired a few of his efforts, in line with the courtroom paperwork. “Great work,” mentioned one. Another informed him to journey to Russia “if it is feasible.”

Trump named Papadopoulos as a member of his marketing campaign international coverage group in March 2016, calling him an “excellent guy” in a March 2016 interview with the Washington Post. But since information of his arrest turned public, the Trump White House has downplayed Papadopoulos’s significance, calling him an unpaid volunteer and that the advisory group on which he served met solely as soon as

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders mentioned final week that Papadopoulos’s work for the marketing campaign was “extremely limited” and that he by no means served in an “official capacity.”

Josh Meyer and Naomi O’Leary contributed reporting.


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