George Papadopoulos, the ex-Trump campaign advisor who kickstarted the Justice Department’s Russian meddling investigation, was sentenced to 14 days in prison and a year of supervised release by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Friday for lying to the FBI in a January 2017 interview.
Papadopoulos was also fined $9,500 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. He was not taken into custody immediately but will be receive a surrender date from the Bureau of Prisons. While he waits for a surrender date, he planned to seek court permission to travel to New York for a few days and then to relocate to California from Chicago, his lawyer indicated.
After the sentencing was over, Papadopoulos’ wife went up to him, they embraced, and he whispered to her.
During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Randy Moss said that before the hearing he thought he was likely going to give Papadopoulos 30 days in jail — comparable to the sentence Dutch lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan received in the Russia probe, also for lying to the FBI — but Moss was moved to reduce it in part by Papadopoulos’ words of contrition at the hearing.
In his remarks to Moss, Papadopoulos said that he had made a “terrible mistake” and was “ashamed.”
Papadopoulos’ plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller last summer was the first to be revealed in Mueller’s Russia investigation, which has since wracked up other pleas, guilty verdicts and sentences.
At Friday’s hearing, Mueller prosecutor Andrew Goldstein described his cooperation as “at best, begrudging.”
His sentencing comes after weeks of his wife publicly suggesting that he was flirting with walking away from the plea agreement. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to misleading federal investigators about his contacts with Russian-tied figures during the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to court documents, he had a series of conversations with a mysterious London-based Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, who told Papadopoulos about “dirt” Russia had on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos, during the campaign, communicated with other people claiming Kremlin links, and unsuccessfully sought to set up a meeting between Trump and Vladmir Putin.
Papadopoulos, the New York Times reported, divulged to an Australian diplomat in London in May 2016 the promise he received of Clinton dirt from Russia — information Australia took to U.S. officials after hacked Democratic emails began leaking online.
Papadopoulos was quietly arrested last summer, and his cooperation with Mueller’s probe was unknown until the special counsel unveiled the plea deal the same day he brought charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The White House sought to downplay Papadopoulos’ involvement with Trump’s campaign, equating him to a “coffee boy.” He was pictured in a March 2016 meeting with other Trump advisors, and court docs revealed him to be contact with the campaign’s top officials.
Since his cooperation became public last October, Papadopoulos documented his life in Chicago on social media. His Instagram-friendly exploits included marrying Simona Mangiante, an Italian who worked for Mifsud and flirted with Papadopoulos over LinkedIn when she realized they shared a connection.
While Papadopoulos has mostly stayed away from media, his wife has done numerous press interviews and has been critical of Mueller’s investigation.
Prosecutors, in a brief asking the judge to sentence Papadopoulos to at least some incarceration within the six-month guideline, said that his crime was “serious and caused damage to the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.” They knocked his wife’s media interviews, saying she mischaracterized what the former Trump aide volunteered in the initial interview.
“[T]he defendant’s lies were not only deliberate, but repeated,” the prosecutors’ memo said, while also asserting that the cooperation he eventually offered came only only after federal investigators confronted him with information from the devices of his that they had seized.
Papadopoulos’ attorneys, in their sentencing memo asking that Papadopoulos receive only probation, said he was “ashamed and remorseful” for his false statements to the FBI, but stressed that he was “young” and inexperienced.
“To say George was out of his depth would be a gross understatement,” they said of his time on Trump campaign, where he felt “unbridled loyalty” to the candidate.
“Out of loyalty to the new president and his desire to be part of the administration, he hoisted himself upon his own petard,” the memo said, while calling the prosecutors’ claims that his lies hindered their investigation “speculative at best.”