Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, wife of former Donald Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, takes a break from a closed-door meeting with Democrats on the House intelligence committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to investigators about his contacts with people linked to Russia during the campaign. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Wife of former Trump adviser defends husband on Capitol Hill

July 18, 2018 - 3:09 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The wife of former Donald Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos defended her husband Wednesday in an interview with Democrats on the House intelligence committee and said she hopes he receives a pardon.

Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos said she traveled to Washington for the interview — even paying her own way — because she wanted to be transparent.

George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty last year to lying to investigators about his contacts with people linked to Russia during the campaign.

He then became a key cooperator for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian election interference and possible coordination with Trump's associates. Papadopoulos is expected to be sentenced in September.

Speaking to reporters following her four-hour interview, which was closed to the press, Mangiante Papadopoulos appeared to suggest her husband's cooperation could eventually "reveal something very interesting and major," but "not necessarily in terms of collusion."

Asked if her husband was encouraged by Trump officials to make contact with Russia, she said that was beyond her knowledge. But her husband "has nothing to do with Russia," she said.

She said she hopes he is pardoned, but said she wasn't aware of any effort by the White House to do so. She added that she believes her husband would be willing to sit for an interview with lawmakers.

Mangiante Papadopoulos also attempted to clear up any rumors that she is a Russian spy herself — by breaking out in Italian to prove her point. She said people often mistake her accent for Russian.

"I have been accused of being Russian spy," she said. "No, I'm not that interesting. I'm an Italian national 100 percent."

Her appearance before Democrats on the House intelligence committee was part of a political dispute.

Democrats are frustrated that the GOP-led committee did not call more witnesses before it completed its Russia investigation earlier this year, and have started conducting some of their own interviews.

No Republicans were present Wednesday.

The intelligence panel's report issued this spring said the probe found no evidence of "collusion, coordination or conspiracy" between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Democrats were furious, saying the Republicans had blocked many witnesses Democrats has wanted to call. Among those was Maria Butina, a 29-year-old gun-rights activist who was charged this week with being a covert Russian agent who gathered intelligence on American officials.

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Associated Press writer Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

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