Ex-Trump campaign aide jailed in Russia probe


WASHINGTON, Sept 8, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A former advisor to US President
Donald Trump whose contacts with Russians set off the investigation into
possible collusion with Moscow was jailed Friday for lying to the FBI.

US District Judge Randolph Moss sentenced foreign policy aide George
Papadopoulos to 14 days in prison, acknowledging his guilty plea and his
remorse, but noting that he “lied in an investigation that was important to
national security.”

Papadopoulos was the second person ordered to prison in the sprawling, 16-
month Russia collusion investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and
came just over two weeks after two former top aides to Trump were convicted
of felony crimes in cases that grew out of the probe.

Trump sought to ridicule the sentence, suggesting that it was trivial
accomplishment for an investigation that has cost millions since it began in
May 2017 — while ignoring the 35 indictments, five guilty pleas and one
trial conviction Mueller has racked up so far.

“14 days for $28 MILLION – $2 MILLION a day, No Collusion. A great day for
America!” Trump tweeted.

But Senator Mark Warner, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence
Committee, which has its own Russia collusion investigation, applauded
Mueller’s work.

“Despite constant attacks by the President and his allies, Special Counsel
Robert Mueller and his team have once again demonstrated that they are
conducting a serious, professional investigation into the Trump campaign’s
contacts with Russians during the 2016 election,” Warner said in a statement.

– Tried to arrange Trump-Putin meeting –

Papadopoulos, 31, was an inexperienced oil analyst based in London when he
joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 as one of a handful of members of the
Republican candidate’s national security advisory board.

Told the campaign’s priority was to improve relations with Russia, within
weeks he made contact with a mysterious professor, Joseph Mifsud, who touted
links to the Kremlin. Mifsud introduced him to others who ostensibly had
connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin — including a woman who
claimed to be Putin’s niece.

At a campaign meeting at the end of March 2016 Papadopoulos told Trump,
then-senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other campaign
officials that he had connections in London that could set up a Trump-Putin
meeting ahead of the November election.

“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,” Papadopoulos’s lawyers said in
a pre-sentencing statement last week.

Sessions has claimed he opposed the idea, but Papadopoulos continued to
discuss the idea with top campaign officials over the following months.

In late April, he also told them that Mifsud said the Russians had
information that could harm Clinton, in the form of thousands of emails.

Weeks later, stolen Clinton emails were leaked over the internet by what US
intelligence chiefs now say were Russian intelligence actors. Papadopoulos
says he had nothing to do with the leak.

– ‘Young and ambitious’ –

After being tipped off by an Australian diplomat that Papadopoulos had
spoken about Russians having dirt on Clinton, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation quietly opened a probe into whether people in Trump’s campaign
were colluding with Russia.

Papadopoulos admitted that he lied to FBI investigators when they
interviewed him on January 27, 2017.

“In January 2017, I made a terrible mistake for which I paid dearly, I am
ashamed,” Papadopoulos had told the court in Washington. “I was young and

His lawyer Tom Breen said that at the time, Papadopoulos was naive and
acted on what he told the court was a “misguided loyalty” to Trump, who had
been inaugurated as president just one week before.

Already at that time, Breen noted, Trump was calling the allegations of
Russian interference in the election “fake news” and a “political witch hunt”
— terms he continues to use for the Mueller probe.

“The president of the United States hindered this investigation more than
George Papadopoulos ever did,” Breen said.

Moss, the federal judge, said he took into consideration Papadopoulos’s
“genuine remorse” in issuing the light sentence, which included a $9,500
fine, a year on parole and community service.

Papadopoulos has cooperated for more than a year with Mueller’s probe, but
it remains unknown whether he has provided the probe with any information
supporting allegations of collusion with Russia.

Mueller’s office did not immediately comment on the sentence.