George Papadopoulos' first major political role, serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016, catapulted him into the center of an international scandal and ultimately landed him in federal prison.
Now a free man living in California, Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to federal agents investigating Russian interference in President Trump's election, is planning to make his return to politics - as a candidate for Congress.
His seat of choice? The one occupied by Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., who announced Sunday, Oct. 27, that she is resigning amid an ethics investigation into allegations that she had been romantically involved with her legislative director. Hill has denied the charge, but admitted to engaging in a consensual three-person relationship with her now-estranged husband and a member of her campaign staff. The freshman lawmaker, who identifies as bisexual, became embroiled in controversy earlier this month after a conservative news site and British tabloid published nude photos of Hill without her consent.
On Tuesday, Papadopoulos, 32, filed paperwork to run as a Republican in California's 25th District and is expected to formally announce his candidacy later this week, Fox News reported. The news was met with swift backlash from California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith, so far the lone Democrat in the race for Hill's seat. Three Republicans are also running, the Associated Press reported.
"If he pled guilty to lying to the FBI - how do we know he'll tell us the truth?" Smith tweeted, tagging Papadopoulos. "We deserve someone from our community serving as our voice - not @realDonaldTrump's wannabe political hack!"
Smith later ratcheted up her criticism of Papadopoulos, sharing a video that appeared to mock the former Trump adviser over the short amount of time he's lived in California. Papadopoulos, who is originally from Illinois, moved west with his wife after he was sentenced in September 2018.
"Hey, guess what, this is California," Smith said in Tuesday's video, slapping her hand on a map of the United States. "And as soon as you can identify my district on here, you let us know."
Papadopoulos did not respond to requests for comment late Tuesday. He repeatedly has mentioned Hill's congressional seat in recent tweets.
One day before the photos of Hill were published, Papadopoulos tweeted, "California's 25th congressional district looks like it's for the taking."
In another post after the photos came out, Papadopoulos slammed Hill as an "embarrassment to the great people in that district."
"Someone has to step up," he tweeted Sunday, following Hill's announcement. "I love my state too much to see it run down by candidates like Hill. All talk, no action, and a bunch of sell outs."
Papadopoulos' political career began in 2015, not long after Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower, T.A. Frank wrote in a profile published this year in The Washington Post. His initial attempt to join the Trump campaign didn't pan out and he ended up briefly serving as an adviser for then-presidential candidate Ben Carson before taking a job with the London Center of International Law Practice. But Papadopoulos never gave up on his goal of working for Trump's campaign, and eventually came on as a foreign policy adviser in March 2016, Frank reported.
"He's an oil and energy consultant," Trump said of Papadopoulos, according to The Post. "Excellent guy."
Within days of starting his new role, Papadopoulos, guided by the campaign's interest in improving relations with Moscow, was already working to get Trump a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Frank reported. Papadopoulos' efforts led him to a London-based professor, who told him that the Russians had access to "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, namely damaging emails. Papadopoulos stayed in contact with the professor and later communicated with Russian nationals, including a woman he incorrectly believed was Putin's niece, The Post reported.
Then, in May 2016, the situation took a turn.
That's when Papadopoulos made an offhand remark about the Russians and their "dirt" on Clinton to an Australian diplomat over drinks at a bar in London, according to The Post. This conversation between Papadopoulos and the diplomat, who promptly relayed the information to American officials, helped trigger the FBI investigation of Trump's campaign in late July 2016.
About a year later, Papadopoulos was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport - accused of making false statements to the FBI about his Russia contacts. On Oct. 5, 2017, Papadopoulos admitted to lying, becoming the first Trump official to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller. He served 12 days in federal prison last year.
Since his release in December 2018, Papadopoulos has participated in a documentary series chronicling his relationship with his wife and the aftermath of the Russia investigation, and wrote a book, "Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump."
Becoming a politician has also been on his to-do list.
"I will be running for Congress in 2020, and I will win," Papadopoulos tweeted days after leaving a federal prison in Wisconsin in December. "Stay tuned."
This article was written by Allyson Chiu, a reporter for The Washington Post.