WASHINGTON (Reuters) – George Papadopoulos, a former aide to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, will be sentenced on Friday after pleading guilty last year to lying to federal agents investigating whether campaign members coordinated with Russia before the election.
FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos is seen in a booking mugshot taken by the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office as he was booked into the Alexandria Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. July 28, 2017. Alexandria Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS
Prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Papadopoulos lied to agents about his contacts with Russians during the campaign “to minimize both his own role as a witness and the extent of the campaign’s knowledge of his contacts,” according to the government’s sentencing memorandum.
Among those contacts were London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, who told him the Russians had “dirt” on Trump’s Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” Russia has denied U.S. allegations that it interfered in the campaign and President Trump denies campaign collusion.
Prosecutors are asking the judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to impose a prison sentence of up to six months, saying that Papadopoulos’ lies impeded their investigation and that he did not cooperate. Friday will mark his first public court appearance since he pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to the FBI while the case was still sealed.
The lies he told in his voluntary interview with the FBI on Jan. 27, 2017, prosecutors said, “undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States.”
In addition, they said Papadopoulos did not provide “substantial assistance” and only came clean after he was confronted with his own emails, texts and other evidence.
In December 2017, two months after his guilty plea, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had plans for a follow-up meeting with Papadopoulos. The FBI canceled the meeting when it discovered that Papadopoulos had sat down for a media interview about the case. He and his wife later participated in more media interviews.
Lawyers for Papadopoulos dispute some of the government’s characterizations, and plan to ask the judge to sentence him to probation.
“Mr. Papadopoulos’s offense was unquestionably serious as he made materially false statements to FBI agents,” they wrote in their sentencing memo. However, they wrote, the claim that his lies harmed the investigation are “speculative and contrary to the evidence.”
Papadopoulos was pictured in March 2016 sitting at a table with Trump, then-campaign adviser Jeff Sessions who went on to become U.S. Attorney General, and other foreign policy campaign advisers.
At that meeting, Papadopoulos proposed brokering a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sessions has previously testified to Congress that he pushed back against the proposal, but the memo filed by Papadopoulos’s lawyers contradicts Sessions’ account, saying that both Trump and Sessions appeared receptive to the idea.
The court filing confirms reporting by Reuters in March about the difference between Sessions’ testimony and how others recounted his reaction to the proposal at the meeting.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Grant McCool