George Papadopoulos, a Greek-American foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, was sentenced to 14 days in jail for lying to investigators about his contacts with a UK professor peddling dirt from Russian officials about Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos in October became the first person to plead guilty in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He’s the second defendant to be sentenced, after lawyer Alex van der Zwaan got 30 days behind bars.
Papadopoulos reportedly played a key role in sparking the FBI’s probe of Trump’s contacts with Russia when, during a night of heavy drinking in a London bar in May 2016, he told an Australian diplomat that Russia had dirt on Clinton, according to the New York Times. The FBI, tipped off by the Australians, began looking into the matter.
“I made a dreadful mistake, but I am a good man,” he said Friday at his sentencing hearing in federal court in Washington.
Prosecutors said Papadopoulos used his contacts with the professor, identified in court papers as Joseph Mifsud, to elevate his status within the campaign and lobby for a meeting between Trump and Russian officials, including president Vladimir Putin.
His lies about the timing of his encounter with the professor, including the false claim that it came before he’d joined the campaign, prevented investigators from effectively questioning Mifsud when he was in Washington in February 2017, prosecutors said in a court filing.
Papadopoulos was first charged in July 2017. The case was kept under seal for three weeks after his guilty plea and made public only when Mueller announced the indictments of campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his top deputy, Rick Gates, for money laundering, illegal lobbying and other charges unrelated to the election.
Under his plea deal with prosecutors, Papadopoulos faced zero to six months imprisonment. His lawyers asked US District Judge Randolph Moss for a sentence of probation that would terminate immediately, saying he’s been under close supervision for 13 months and cooperated with the government.
In addition to the two weeks’ jail term, Papadopoulos was ordered to serve 200 hours of community service and fined $9,500.
Papadopoulos lied to investigators because he was “caught off-guard by an impromptu investigation” and wanted to “save his professional aspirations,” defense lawyers said.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of as long as six months in jail, telling Moss that Papadopoulos failed to provide “substantial assistance” to investigators and disclosed what he did only after he was confronted with his own records. They noted that he and his wife appeared frequently in the media to discuss the case.
A defense lawyer took issue with the government’s claim that Papadopoulos interfered with the probe. Citing Trump’s comment that the Mueller probe was a “Witch Hunt,” made before his client was ever interviewed, attorney Thomas Breen said that “the president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever would.” [AP]