Former Trump Aide George Papadopoulos Sentenced To 14 Days In Jail

Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos received a very generous sentence in return for his guilty plea.

George Papadopoulos, the former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who was among the first people to be indicted and plead guilty to any charges in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and related issues, has been sentenced to 14 days in jail in connection with his guilty plea:

WASHINGTON — George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in prison for lying to the F.B.I. about his contacts with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential race, becoming the first Trump adviser to be sentenced in the special counsel investigation.

Though most first-time offenders convicted of lying to federal authorities escape with probation, Judge Randolph D. Moss said that Mr. Papadopoulos deserved a stiffer sentence because he had impeded an investigation of “grave national importance.”

Prosecutors argued that Mr. Papadopoulos’s repeated lies during a January 2017 interview with investigators hampered the Russia investigation at a critical moment. In part because Mr. Papadopoulos misled the authorities, prosecutors said in court papers, they failed to arrest a London-based professor — suspected of being a Russian operative — before he left the United States in February 2017, never to return.

During an interview with The New York Times this week, Mr. Papadopoulos, 31, for the first time gave his own account of why he deceived F.B.I. agents after they arrived at his house in Chicago last year asking about any connections between the Trump campaign and Russian intermediaries.

“I wanted to distance myself as much as possible — and Trump himself and the campaign — from what was probably an illegal action or dangerous information,” he said. He told the judge that he was blinded by personal ambition and the thrill of being part of Mr. Trump’s electoral victory. Just before his F.B.I. interview, he had attended an inauguration event; just after, he promoted his campaign work as a reason he should be hired by the Energy Department.

“I was surrounded by important people,” he told the judge. “I was young and ambitious and excited.”

At the time of the F.B.I. interview, he told The Times, he was concerned about where the escalating investigation might lead. He made no suggestion that anyone on the campaign or in the administration had directed him to lie.

The sentencing hearing, which lasted more than 90 minutes in a packed courtroom, veered in unexpected directions. Mr. Papadopoulos’s defense lawyer, Thomas M. Breen, tried to shift some of the blame for his client’s lies to President Trump. He suggested that Mr. Papadopoulos took his cues from Mr. Trump, who has tried to discredit the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russia’s interference in the election and whether any Trump associates conspired.

“The president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” Mr. Breen said. “The message for all of us is to check our loyalty, to tell the truth, to help the good guys.”

While Judge Moss cut short that argument, he stressed the importance of the investigation to the integrity of American democracy. Because determining whether a foreign government interfered in the electoral process was “a matter of enormous importance,” he said, Mr. Papadopoulos’s crime was “significantly more serious than the typical violation.”

He “elevated his self-interest over the national interest,” he said. The judge also fined Mr. Papadopoulos $9,500 and ordered him to complete 200 hours of community service and one year of probation after he is released from custody.

Andrew D. Goldstein, a prosecutor on Mr. Mueller’s team, told the judge that because Mr. Papadopoulos lied, investigators were forced into a painstaking monthslong examination of 100,000 emails and other communications to establish how Russian intermediaries tried to use him as a channel to the Trump campaign. Even after he pleaded guilty, Mr. Goldstein said, Mr. Papadopoulos made only “begrudging efforts to cooperate.”

Roughly 60 percent of defendants in such cases receive probation, the judge said, and sentencing guidelines suggested a punishment from probation to six months in prison.

In addition to the 14 days in jail, Papadopoulos also received a $9,500 fine and will be required to do roughly 200 hours of community service. Considering the fact that, under the sentencing guidelines, he could have received up to six months in jail and a much larger fine, this is a fairly light sentence but not one that is unsurprising. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Judges are required to take into account a number of factors that can serve to both increase and reduce the recommended amount of time that a particular Defendant should be sentenced to. In Papadopoulos’s favor, the fact that he plead guilty, cooperated with prosecutors, will apparently still be obligated to testify at trial in the future if necessary, and that he did not have a prior criminal record all worked in his favor in terms of reducing the applicable sentence that he could have received. Indeed, his attorneys argued that because of these factors he should have received no jail time at all and instead be placed on probation with a fine and mandatory community service. Mueller’s team, by contrast, was apparently arguing that he should receive at least six months in prison. Obviously, Papadopoulos got a huge break here but, for the reasons I stated above, that isn’t entirely surprising.

Papadopoulos first became a news item back in August of last year when he was mentioned as being one of the foreign policy advisers on the Trump campaign who was advocating that the candidate meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. While that idea was apparently shot down or never reached beyond the stage of internal campaign discussions, Papadopoulos apparently stayed in touch with Russian officials that he had been dealing with since before he became part of the Trump campaign and that those contacts continued after his association with the Trump campaign began. At one point,Papadopoulos apparently had conversations with an Australian diplomat who he told that Russians had told him that they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton that would be useful to the Trump campaign. This was shortly before the meeting in Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a lawyer with ties to the Russian government that was originally intended to be about compromising about Clinton. This Australian diplomat reported this conversation to their superiors, who passed the information along to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was at this point that the Bureau opened its investigation of Russian interference in the election and potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The fact that Papadopoulos has been sentenced likely means that the major part of his cooperation with the Mueller investigation has come to an end. He may still be called back to testify in a future trial or Grand Jury proceeding, but it’s likely that Mueller believes he has gotten everything from this witness has he’s going to get. Whether that means he’ll be serving his sentence soon, or whether it might be delayed to some point in the future is unclear.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, National Security, Politicians, Russia, Russia Investigation, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    Trump is already proclaiming victory over this. Only in the Orwellian doublethought world of Trump can a campaign staffer pleading guilty to a crime and getting prison time be proclaimed as a win.

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  2. James Pearce says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Only in the Orwellian doublethought world of Trump can a campaign staffer pleading guilty to a crime and getting prison time be proclaimed as a win.

    Or for an oily conman/gangster type, a 14 day sentence is a win.

    I see Papadapolous coming out of the courtroom to Trumpist cheers. “But I got pinched,” he says.

    “Everybody gets pinched…You told em nothing and you got nothing.”

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  3. Gustopher says:

    Too lenient. It sends a message to everyone else that if they lie to investigators, they will just get a slap on the wrist, so just lie already.

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  4. grumpy realist says:

    “You’re a minnow. Here’s a slap on the wrist; stop wasting our time.”

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  5. Tyrell says:

    @Gustopher: Who is next to go before Mueller’s throne? His cheauffer? A lemonade stand worker?
    Who is monitoring Mueller’s actions? And who is monitoring them?
    There needs to be a better way of running these type of investigations. Mueller, Coney, Rosenstein – they are all connected. These should be conducted by outsiders – no politicians or career bureaucrats.
    I thought the same thing about the Ken Starr thing.

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