George Papadopoulos’s ability to talk his way into and out of any situation is enough to make even Donald Trump blush.
In the latest episode of the Papadopoulos saga, the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser and erstwhile coffee boy has taken to Fox News and Twitter in an effort to promote himself as the victim of a global spy conspiracy.
“I have been sentenced to prison in our country while having exculpatory evidence hidden from me,” he wrote in a late Oct. 29 tweet. “If I knew what I knew today, I would never have plead [sic] guilty.”
In appearances on Fox & Friends and Tucker Carlson Tonight, Papadopoulos has laid out a narrative in which he was duped by malicious prosecutors into pleading guilty as part of a larger conspiracy by former Obama officials who were trying to thwart an east Mediterranean gas project that he was working on.
Joseph Moreno, a former federal prosecutor at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft law firm, told TPM that Papadopoulos’s statements about withdrawing from the deal were likely a bluff.
“I’ve never seen that happen,” he said. “I think it’s more of a public relations effort than a legal effort.”
Walking away from the plea deal would mean that prosecutors could use his admissions in court against him.
But Moreno said that Papadopoulos faces the biggest risk from the judge who originally believed his “remorse” at sentencing.
“When the judge sees a person who has pleaded go out on Twitter or television and make statements recanting his guilty plea and recanting what he or she said in court and now saying something else, the judge can get pretty upset,” Moreno said.
Papadopoulos did not go easily into the agreement in the first place. His wife, Italian model Simona Mangiante, asked Trump to pardon her husband in a June Fox News appearance. In court filings, prosecutors wrote that Papadopoulos only admitted that he discussed the Russians having access to Clinton’s emails “after … lying about when he received the information.”
It’s only been six weeks since Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to one count of perjury, telling District Judge Randy Moss that he was “ashamed and remorseful” to have lied to the FBI. “I made a terrible mistake,” he admitted at the sentencing hearing.
The judge said that he was moved by Papadopoulos’s “genuine remorse” to shorten his sentence from 30 days to 14 days of incarceration.
Almost immediately, the spinning was back.
The same day as his sentencing Mangiante told the website Law & Crime that the couple was “preparing to turn infamy into fame and fortune with a book deal about their romance.”
But within days of his plea, Papadopoulos had started to backtrack, tweeting that Alexander Downer – Australia’s then-ambassador in London, whom he allegedly told over drinks about the Russians having access to Clinton’s emails – was in fact a spy.
“The notion that Downer randomly reached out to me just to have a gin and tonic is laughable. Some organization or entity sent him to meet me. For the sake of our republic and the integrity of this investigation, I think it’s time Downer is as exposed as Christoper Steele,” Papadopoulos wrote in a late-night Sept. 10 tweet, referencing the author of the Steele dossier.
By the end of the month, the Daily Beast was reporting that Papadopoulos was pitching his book across the publishing industry, and had hired ritzy entertainment industry agency David Vigliano to rep him in the effort.
Over the past few weeks, Papadopoulos, who did not reply to requests for comment, has ramped up his rhetoric. He now claims to be at the epicenter of “the biggest political scandal in modern history,” culminating in an Oct. 25 day of closed testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government reform committees.
“When I fully compartmentalize and chronologically detail the origins and consequences of the most profound political scandal in modern history, it will be clear that there were three disinformation intelligence operations targeted at me and campaign with one end game,” Papadopoulos wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, he’s asking for $250,000 in a GoFundMe campaign set up by his wife. That effort has only raised around $10,000 as of this writing.
“I am a patriot and an hard worker. Still fighting my battle for the truth. Loyal to my country,” Papadopoulos describes himself in a fundraising message.
Much of the alleged conspiracy revolves around allegations that Obama administration officials arranged the entrapment to stop Papadopoulos from pursuing a Mediterranean gas project he was working on.
The story has to do with two gas deposits discovered off the coast of Israel in 2009. Though the gas fields’ development have been delayed, Papadopoulos did, in fact, try to advocate for certain avenues of development while working as an energy consultant in London.
He wrote an op-ed for Israel’s Artuz Sheva news website in 2014, advocating through impenetrable prose for the country to use the fields to become a major European gas supplier.
It remains unclear if Papadopoulos was carrying water for someone involved in the deal or if he was attempting to build a career off the gas deposit independently.
Eran Lerman, a professor at Israel’s Shalem College and former member of the country’s National Security Council who appeared on a panel with Papadopoulos in 2015, told TPM in an email that “while it is true that I met Curious George and even found some of his grand strategy musings to be valid, I have absolutely no information on gas deals.”
Regardless of Papadopoulos’ involvement, he has used the moment to inject himself into conservative media narratives claiming that the Mueller investigation is part of a deep state attack on Trump.
“As someone who has witnessed corruption first hand, I implore all Americans, for the sake of our country, to vote republican in the midterms,” he tweeted last night.