by Chuck Ross
Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days jail in a federal court in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
District Judge Randolph D. Moss also ordered a year of supervision, 200 hours of community service and a $9,500 fine for the 30-year-old former Trump aide.
Special counsel Robert Mueller had requested a sentence of between zero and six months for Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2017 to lying to the FBI.
Papadopoulos becomes the first Trump associate sentenced in cases involving the special counsel’s office. Alex van der Zwaan, an attorney who worked with Paul Manafort, was sentenced to 30 days in jail on April 3 after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his pre-election work with the former Trump campaign chairman.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to lying to the FBI in a Jan. 27, 2017 interview about the timing and extent of his contacts with a European professor named Joseph Mifsud. Papadopoulos falsely told the FBI that his contact with Mifsud occurred before he joined the Trump team in March 2016.
While Papadopoulos lied about the timing of his interactions with Mifsud, he told FBI agents that he met with the professor in London on April 26, 2016. Papadopoulos said that Mifsud told him that he had learned that the Russian government had “dirt” on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands” of her emails.
Papadopoulos told investigators that he did not inform anyone on the Trump campaign about Mifsud’s claims.
“He told the agents he was unaware of anyone in the campaign knowing of the stolen Hillary Clinton emails prior to the emails being publicly released,” reads an Aug. 30 court filing submitted by Papadopoulos’s attorneys.
Papadopoulos’s wife, Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, has also insisted that her husband did not collude with the Kremlin. She told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Papadopoulos did not see, handle or disseminate any Clinton-related emails. She also said that Papadopoulos believed that Mifsud was referring to emails that Clinton deleted from her private email server.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has not accused Papadopoulos of conspiracy. Instead, he argued in an Aug. 17 court filing that Papadopoulos “hindered” the government’s investigation into Russian meddling in the campaign by lying about the timeline of his contacts with Mifsud.
“The defendant’s crime was serious and caused damage to the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” wrote Mueller, who asked for Papadopoulos to be sentenced to up to six months in jail for lying to the FBI.
Mueller also said that Papadopoulos met four times with prosecutors between his arrest and his plea agreement. Papadopoulos’s plea deal generated speculation that he was possibly revealing damning information linking the Trump campaign to the Kremlin. Instead, Mueller said that Papadopoulos “did not provide ‘substantial assistance’” to the investigation.
Papadopoulos’s lawyers asked for leniency for the former Trump aide in their Aug. 30 court filing. They acknowledged that Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about his contacts with Mifsud, but they disputed that his statements derailed the government’s investigation.
“In his hesitation, George lied, minimized, and omitted material facts. Out of loyalty to the new president and his desire to be part of the administration, he hoisted himself upon his own petard,” Papadopoulos’s lawyers wrote.
They said that Papadopoulos lied to the FBI agents because he was vying for a position in the Trump administration.
Months after his interaction with Mifsud, Papadopoulos would serve as the catalyst for the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. The investigation, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, was opened after the FBI received information that originated with Alexander Downer, the top Australian diplomat to the U.K.
Downer and one of his assistants met Papadopoulos in London on May 10, 2016. Downer has claimed that Papadopoulos made reference to Russians having derogatory information about Clinton.
What Downer did with the information after that remains unclear. He claims he passed the information to others in the Australian government. But the information also ended up on the desk of Elizabeth Dibble, who served as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London.
President Trump referenced Papadopoulos’s case in comments to reporters earlier on Friday. Asked about a potential interview with Mueller, Trump suggested that he was worried about a perjury trap.
“Number one, there is no obstruction. Number two, everybody that looked at anybody over there, they get them on some kind of a lie,” Trump said aboard Air Force One.
“I see Papadopoulos today, I don’t know Papadopoulos, I don’t know. I saw him sitting in one picture at a table with me that’s the only thing I know about him,” he continued, adding that “they got him, on I guess, on a couple of lies.”
Trump then cited Mueller’s case against Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor who has also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
“Flynn, where the FBI said he didn’t lie, but Mueller’s people said he did lie, so I don’t want to be set up with a perjury trap,” Trump said.
J.D. Gordon, the former director of the Trump campaign’s national security team, said that Papadopoulos “clearly made bad decisions” by lying to the FBI. But he said that Papadopoulos is most guilty of making “rookie mistakes in his budding political career.”
“At the end of the day he’s just one of many victims of the political witch hunt of the century,” Gordon told TheDCNF.
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Chuck Ross is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Chuck on Twitter.