Russia Investigation Romance: Key witness George Papadopoulos marries Italian lawyer

PHOTO: George Papadopoulos married Simona Mangiante in Chicago, March 2, 2018.PlayObtained by ABC News
WATCH Fiancee of embattled former Trump campaign adviser comes to his defense

George Papadopoulos, the onetime Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who became the first witness to cut a deal with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Office, married his Italian fiancé in an intimate ceremony in Chicago over the weekend.

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Papadopoulos married Simona Mangiante, an accomplished Italian lawyer, on March 2. The two met during the campaign, while both were stationed in London, and they were engaged as Papadopoulos became enmeshed in the growing investigation into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

In December, Mangiante offered the first public defense of the embattled former Trump campaign adviser, who weeks earlier had been revealed to be the first campaign aide to plead guilty and cooperate with the special counsel’s Russia probe.

“George is very loyal to his country,” Mangiante told ABC News in an exclusive interview on Good Morning America. “He is already on the right side of history. I think he will make a big difference.”

PHOTO: George Papadopoulos fiance, Simona Mangiante responds to ABCs George Stephanopoulos question asking if she speaks Russian. ABC News
George Papadopoulos fiance, Simona Mangiante responds to ABC's George Stephanopoulos' question asking if she speaks Russian.

Mangiante, who worked as a lawyer in the European Parliament, became well known for her fierce defense of Papadopoulos, who had been written off by other Trump aides as a “coffee boy.” She said the man she was marrying “set up meetings with leaders all over the world” for senior campaign officials and was “constantly in touch with high-level officials in the campaign.”

The story of how Papadopoulos became swept up into the ongoing probe of Russian election interference has only recently emerged. Mangiante told ABC News in December that she believes the young energy consultant was manipulated by a European academic who reached out to him after he was named as a member of Trump’s foreign policy team.

Both she and Papadopoulos had worked at different times for Professor Joseph Mifsud, then the director of the London Academy of Diplomacy. Court records filed by Mueller describe how a professor approached Papadopoulos after learning of his role in the Trump campaign. The court filing does not name the professor, but Mangiante identified him as Mifsud.

The court records describe the professor as someone with “substantial connections to Russian government officials," who told Papadopoulos he could help the young campaign aide obtain “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton that had been collected by the Russians.

PHOTO: This undated image posted on his Linkedin profile shows George Papadopoulos posing on a street of London.
AFP/Getty Images
This undated image posted on his Linkedin profile shows George Papadopoulos posing on a street of London.

Mifsud has acknowledged to The Telegraph that he is indeed “the professor” in the case, but he could not be reached for comment by ABC News.

Mangiante, an Italian citizen, was also questioned by FBI agents. She said she was brought to an FBI office in Chicago and asked about her work for Mifsud, her work as a political aide for the European Parliament in Brussels, and about how she came to meet Papadopoulos.

At one point, she said, they asked her if she spoke Russian. She told ABC News she does not.

She said in the interview she now believes Papadopoulos will gain a firm place in history as “the first domino in the Russia investigation.”

“He was very brave and decent to take responsibility” for lying to the FBI, she said. “George is very loyal to his country.”

The couple has been living in Chicago, where Papadopoulos is continuing to assist investigators and is working on a book. Mangiante told ABC News the two would hold a religious ceremony in Naples “eventually.”