In appealing to a federal judge for leniency in sentencing his client for lying to FBI, a lawyer for George Papadopoulos claimed Donald Trump himself did more to impede the Russia investigation than his former campaign adviser did.
“The President of the United States hindered that investigation more” than Papadopoulos did, attorney Thomas Breen told the federal judge in DC preparing to sentence Papadopoulos Friday afternoon.
Noting comments President Trump made the week before Papadopoulos misled the FBI, Breen said, “the President of the United States and commander in chief told the world this is fake news and a witch hunt.”
Trump made those comments on Jan. 20, 2017, according to Breen. Papadopoulos was interviewed by FBI agents about his contacts with Russia-connected figures a week later. “That’s the mindset going in there,” Breen told the court, citing Trump’s remarks.
Breen, in his at times theatrical remarks during the hearing, took the judge back to 2015, when he said Papadopoulos first sought to work for the Trump campaign but was turned down. After a stint at the Ben Carson campaign, until it wound down, Papadopoulos tried again to join the Trump campaign and was “absolutely delighted” to be named one of Trump’s foreign policy advisors on March 21, Breen said.
A few days later, he crossed paths with Joseph Mifsud, a mysterious London-based Maltese man known as the “professor” in court docs, and Mifsud starting “working” Papadopoulos, according to the lawyer. Breen would tell reporters after the hearing that it was his personal belief Mifsud was working for the Russians.
At a meeting with Trump and top campaign officials on March 31, Papadopolous learned that a focus of the campaign was improving the U.S. relationship with Russia, his attorney said, and Papadopoulos suggested setting up a meeting with Vladimir Putin.
“He’s going to work these connections,” Breen said, referring to Mifsud and the other seemingly Kremlin-linked figures Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to. “He doesn’t know he’s going to be worked by a pro.”
Mifsud told Papdopoulos that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton in “the form of thousands of emails,” Breen said.
Breen called Papadopoulos “unsophisticated,” “naive” and a “fool,” but said Papadopoulos — in not alerting the authorities about the promise of dirt, and in seeking to set up a Russia meeting for Trump — thought he was “furthering the interests of the fellow” he wanted to be President.
Breen said that when the FBI came to his mother’s home on January 20 ,2017, Papadopoulos was taking a shower.
‘He wouldn’t be here today if he stayed in the shower,” Breen said, but instead Papadopoulos let himself be interviewed by the FBI without a lawyer where he lied about the details of his Russia-related contacts.
“It was not his intent” to hinder the investigation, Breen said, but rather, he was motivated by a “strategic decision” because he wanted a position in the Trump administration.
He would, however, not correct those lies when he returned with his lawyers to the FBI headquarters in Chicago in February, Breen said.
“He made stupid, stupid mistakes,” Breen said.