WASHINGTON — George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, is asking for immunity to testify before the Senate intelligence committee.
Two people familiar with the negotiations said Friday that Papadopoulos has asked for the immunity as the committee seeks a closed-door interview with him. The people requested anonymity because the committee’s negotiations are confidential. The committee is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
It’s unclear why Papadopoulos wants immunity after he was already sentenced to two weeks in prison for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian intermediaries during the campaign. But he has spent many nights posting on Twitter, along with his wife, venting anger about the FBI and insisting he was framed by the government.
Papadopoulos appeared on Capitol Hill on Thursday for a closed-door interview with Republicans in the House who are investigating what they say is bias at the Justice Department. He did not receive immunity for that interview.
Republicans left the interview saying he had reinforced their belief that the FBI and Justice Department were biased against Trump when they started the Russia investigation. And Papadopoulos said in an interview Friday on “Fox & Friends” that he learned new information in the meeting and is considering withdrawing his guilty plea.
It’s unlikely that he would be able to do that. Federal law generally does not allow defendants to withdraw a guilty plea after sentencing without proof of some overriding injustice or new evidence.
A lawyer for Papadopoulos would not comment specifically on his request for immunity.
“There are a number of options on the table right now and we are evaluating all of them closely,” said Caroline Polisi.
Republicans said they learned new facts from Papadopoulos but wouldn’t detail what they were. They repeated their claims, echoed by President Donald Trump, that the Justice Department made mistakes in 2016 as it cleared Democrat Hillary Clinton in an investigation of her emails and started a probe of Trump’s Russia ties.
“These facts continue to lend themselves to the narrative that there were folks in the Obama FBI and Justice Department that prejudged Hillary Clinton’s innocence, and prejudged Donald Trump’s guilt or involvement with the Russian government and potential collusion,” said Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe, who attended the interview.
Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, has been a central figure in the probe dating back before Mueller’s May 2017 appointment. He was the first person to plead guilty in Mueller’s probe and the first Trump campaign adviser to be sentenced. His case was also the first to detail a member of the Trump campaign having knowledge of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election while it was ongoing.
According to a sweeping indictment, Russian intelligence had stolen emails from Clinton’s campaign and other Democratic groups by April 2016, the same month Papadopoulos was told by a professor, Joseph Mifsud, that Russian officials had told him they had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” According to a New York Times report last year, Papadopoulos then told an Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, who tipped off the FBI.
Papadopoulos later lied about those contacts. He told a judge during sentencing that he was “deeply embarrassed and ashamed” of his lies.
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