WASHINGTON – Chicagoan George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, is “ashamed and remorseful” about lying to the FBI, but did not hinder Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and should not serve time in prison, his lawyers said on Friday.
In a sentencing memo filed late Friday night, attorneys Thomas Breen, Robert Stanley and Todd Pugh, whose firm is in Chicago’s Loop, said Papadopoulos should be placed on probation.
Papadopoulos, 31, will be sentenced in a federal court in Washington on Sept. 7 for making false statements to the FBI. His plea deal was announced last October.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Papadopoulos’ lawyers were seeking no prison time after government lawyers told a judge up to six months would be appropriate. Sentencing memos for both sides noted that another Mueller defendant who pled guilty to one count of lying was sentenced to 30 days.
Papadopoulos is a North Side resident who was raised in Lincolnwood and graduated Niles West High School and DePaul University.
His lawyers in their sentencing memo said Papadopoulos was the “first domino” to fall in Mueller’s investigation of whether Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential campaign and the Trump campaign.
“Papadopoulos is now a convicted felon. When it came time to make a good decision he made a bad one,” his lawyers told the court.
Papadopoulos did try to help the FBI, the memo said.
“Most significantly, George told investigators about the March 31, 2016 “National Security Meeting” in Washington D.C. where he told Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions, and everyone else present that he had connections willing to help organize a meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
The memo added, “While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.”
However, this seems to contradict Attorney General Jeff Sessions congressional testimony in November, 2017 when he said he “pushed back” at the Papadopoulos proposal.
The Papadopoulos attorneys paint a portrait of him as out of his “depth” when he found himself on Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel, “eager to show his value to the campaign” in order to land a job in the administration and in a state of “giddiness” after Trump spoke highly of him in a meeting.
“To say George was out of his depth would be a gross understatement. Despite being a young energy policy guru, he had no experience in dealing with Russian policy or its officials. Nonetheless, George strived to organize a meeting with the Russian government and help the Trump campaign promote its foreign policy objective: improve U.S. and Russian relations,” the lawyers told the court in their memo.
“Mr. Papadopoulos admits that his false statements on January 27, 2017 were material, in that his statements had the ability to influence the actions of the agents investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He does not, however, believe his false statements actually harmed the investigation as alleged,” the lawyers argued.
Papadopoulos came to the attention of the Trump campaign after working on Ben Carson’s failed GOP primary bid.
The sentencing memo provides more information about why Papadopoulos did not tell the truth after the FBI came knocking on the door of his mother’s home looking for him on Jan. 27, 2017.
He was in the shower.
From the memo
Why Papadopoulos lied
“For that, Mr. Papadopoulos is ashamed and remorseful.
“The Government’s claim, however, that Mr. Papadopoulos intended that his false statements harm the investigation is speculative and contrary to the evidence. His motives for lying to the FBI were wrongheaded indeed but far from sinister.”
Why probation is appropriate
“While his offense was grave, Mr. Papadopoulos did not intend to derail the federal investigation.”
Connecting with the Trump campaign
“In early March 2016, he received an interview for the position of foreign policy advisor. During his meeting with a senior Trump campaign official, George learned that the campaign’s foreign policy focus would be improving relations with Russia. George landed the job despite having no experience with U.S. and Russian diplomacy.”
Papadopoulos out of his depth, a ‘gross understatement’
“On March 14, 2016, George met London-based college Professor Joseph Mifsud while traveling in Italy. When Mifsud, then director of the London Academy of Diplomacy, claimed connections to the Russian Government, George thought he could utilize him and his connections to help the Trump campaign promote its policy objectives.
“Professor Mifsud paid young George little attention until learning of his position as one of Trump’s foreign policy advisors.
“…Three days later, on March 24, 2016, George met again with Professor Mifsud in London where he introduced George to a young woman named Olga, who Professor Mifsud claimed was a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Professor Mifsud and Olga led George to believe that they had the wherewithal to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.
“Returning to Washington D.C., twenty-eight-year-old George witnessed his career skyrocketing to unimaginable heights. On March 31, 2016, he joined Mr. Trump, Senator Jeff Sessions, and other campaign officials for a “National Security Meeting” at the Trump Hotel.
“George’s photograph at this meeting flashed around the world via Twitter. Eager to show his value to the campaign, George announced at the meeting that he had connections that could facilitate a foreign policy meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.
“George’s giddiness over Mr. Trump’s recognition was prominent during the days that followed the March 31, 2016 meeting. He had a sense of unbridled loyalty to the candidate and his campaign and set about trying to organize the meeting with President Putin. George continued his discussions with Professor Mifsud and Olga – who he believed to be President Putin’s niece – about arranging a meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
George kept the campaign in the loop and, in mid-April 2016, Professor Mifsud introduced George to Ivan Timofeev who claimed to have connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Seemingly on a roll, George again seized this opportunity to try and organize a meeting between the campaign and Russian officials. Mr. Timofeev claimed to be in Moscow and for several weeks, George pressed him through emails and Skype calls about setting up a potential meeting.
“To say George was out of his depth would be a gross understatement. Despite being a young energy policy guru, he had no experience in dealing with Russian policy or its officials. Nonetheless, George strived to organize a meeting with the Russian government and help the Trump campaign promote its foreign policy objective: improve U.S. and Russian relations.
“He believed that such a meeting would be a boon for the campaign as Mr. Trump had not yet hosted any major foreign policy events with officials from other countries.
“George joined Professor Mifsud for breakfast in London on April 26, 2016, with the intention of finalizing plans for the foreign policy meeting. It was during this breakfast meeting, however, that Professor Mifsud told George that individuals in Moscow possessed “dirt” on candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
“Not knowing what to make of this comment, George continued his efforts to make the Trump – Russia meeting a reality. As he expressed in an email to Professor Mifsud, George believed that the meeting would be “history making.” While the meeting never occurred, George sincerely thought that he could be at the center of a globally significant event.”
Why he lied
“Caught off-guard by an impromptu interrogation, Mr. Papadopoulos misled investigators to save his professional aspirations and preserve a perhaps misguided loyalty to his master.”
More on what happened
“On the morning of January 27, 2017, as George stepped out of the shower at his mother’s home in Chicago, two FBI agents knocked on the door seeking to interview him. The agents asked George to accompany them to their office to answer a “couple questions” regarding “a guy in New York that you might know[,] [t]hat has recently been in the news.” George thought the agents wanted to ask him about Russian businessman Sergei Millian.”
That turned out to be an FBI ruse
En route to the FBI office, George voiced concern about the repercussions of his cooperation ever becoming public because the Wall Street Journal had just reported that Sergei Millian was a key source in the “Trump Dossier” controversy. George explained that he was in discussions with senior Trump administration officials about a position and the last thing he wanted was “something like this” casting the administration in a bad light.
“The agents assured him that his cooperation would remain confidential. George let the agents know that he wanted to help so that he could move on and serve his country.
“…George was surprised to be answering questions about Russian interference in the election and told the agents the topic caught him off guard.
The FBI agent confirmed that the Sergei Millian inquiry was just a ruse to get him in a room.
.“George lied about material facts central to the investigation. To generalize, the FBI was looking into Russian contacts with members of the Trump campaign as part of its larger investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.
“This issue had dominated the news for several months with stories concerning Carter Page and Paul Manafort. The agents placed this issue squarely on the table before George and he balked. 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.
The government argued that Papadopoulos “impeded the FBI’s investigation because his false statements hindered investigators’ ability to effectively question Professor Mifsud or arrest him while he was still in the United States” and how he had information about Clinton emails.
“The Government’s argument is speculative at best as it has not shown counsel nor the Court any evidence tending to show its investigation was actually hindered in the manner described.
“Mr. Papadopoulos admits that his false statements on January 27, 2017 were material, in that his statements had the ability to influence the actions of the agents investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He does not, however, believe his false statements actually harmed the investigation as alleged.”