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George Papadopoulos, Former Trump Aide And Felon, Runs For Rep. Katie Hill's Seat

Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos leaves the U.S. District Court after his sentencing hearing in September 2018 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wroblewski
Getty Images
Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos leaves the U.S. District Court after his sentencing hearing in September 2018 in Washington, DC.

George Papadopoulos was a minor figure in Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. He later became a major player in the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia and pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators. He served time in federal prison and wrote a book.

So, what could Papadopoulos possibly do next? Of course: He'll run for a U.S. congressional seat.

Papadopoulos filed paperwork Tuesday to run as a Republican for the soon-to-be-vacant seat currently held by Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., who announced her resignation over the weekend.

Hill, a freshman lawmaker, is stepping down in the face of an ethics probe stemming from allegations of an improper sexual relationship with a staffer.

Once seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, Hill became the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation for an alleged romantic relationship with Graham Kelly, her legislative director. She denies that allegation. As NPR's Emma Bowman recently reported, Hill has also acknowledged a relationship with a woman who worked on her campaign.

"Hill, who is openly bisexual, has admitted to and apologized for an 'inappropriate' relationship with a female campaign staffer," Bowman said. "However, there are no laws or House rules that prohibit consensual relationships with campaign staffers."

For his part, Papadopoulos has been teasing a run for office for a few days. After Hill's announcement he tweeted, "California's 25 th congressional district is wide open for the taking."

"I'm smelling blood in the water now that Katie Hill has resigned. California's 25th congressional district is wide open for the taking," his tweet read. "Someone has to step up. 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."

Another tweet showed him standing behind a lectern and between a U.S. and California state flag, along with a simple caption: "Taking back California!"

Papadopoulos faces a crowded primary field for the congressional seat. Of the other candidates that have declared so far, five of the six are also Republicans. And this does not include former GOP Rep. Steve Knight, who Hill defeated by nearly 9 points in the 2018.

Unlike others who were implicated in the Muller investigation, Papadopoulos was never hired to work in the Trump administration, and the president distanced himself from him.

Trump did however tweet at Papadopoulos this summer to promote his book, Deep State Target, which is subtitled, "How I Got Caught In The Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump."

"Good luck with the book George, should do well!" Trump tweeted.

In 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in order to cover up his interactions with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential race. He was sentenced to 14 days in prison and a fine of $9,500.

He admitted to meeting with a professor with Russian ties who promised to deliver "dirt" on Trump's political rival Hillary Clinton.

As NPR reported, Papadopoulos was the first Trump campaign figure to be sentenced during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into Russian interference with the U.S. presidential campaign.

And about that felony conviction — does that bar Papadopoulos from seeking office?

According to a 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service, the answer is no. The only prerequisites for becoming a member of Congress is being at least 25 years old, a U.S. citizen for at least seven years and being an "inhabitant" of the state from which the candidate is elected.

The report adds:

"... the conviction of a crime which constitutes a felony, can not constitutionally 'disqualify' one from being a Member of Congress (unless that conviction is for certain treasonous conduct after having taken an oath of office)."

Papadopoulos will also have the option to cast a ballot for himself. According to the California Secretary of State's website, the state allows felons to vote so long as they not currently in a state or federal prison or on parole.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.