Mueller Wants Papadopoulos to Go to Jail, Says He Harmed Russia Investigation

Simona Mangiante in Chicago

Simona Mangiante in Chicago

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide, could face up to six months months in prison, under Special Counsel Robert Mueller's sentencing recommendation.

Prosecutors say Papadopoulos lied repeatedly to FBI agents about his contacts during the 2016 presidential with Russians and Russian intermediaries, and his conduct damaged the investigation.

Mueller did "not take a position with respect to a particular sentence" for Papadopoulos but recommended incarceration within the zero-to-six-month guidelines, according to a sentencing memo filed Friday.

While saying the government can not know what motivated Papadopoulos to lie, Mueller's office wrote in the sentencing memo that he was seeking a high-level position in the new administration's National Security Council or the State or Energy departments. He received 30 days in prison.

Mueller also said Papadopoulos avoided until the last moment telling prosecutors about a cell phone he used in London that had "substantial communications" on it between he and the professor who claimed to know about Russian information on Clinton.

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The professor is alleged to have told Mr Papdopoulos that the Russians possessed "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails, before those emails became public. Mueller's team claimed on Friday that those lies "undermined investigators' ability to challenge the professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States", noting that "the Professor" left the US a few weeks after Papadopoulos's first voluntary interview, and hasn't returned since. The only defendant to be sentenced is lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to making false statements about his conversations with a former Trump campaign official. "He lied repeatedly over the course of more than two hours, and his lies were created to hide facts he knew were critical". "The defendant's false statements were meant to harm the investigation, and did so". They reminded Papadopoulos several times in that interview that he should not lie and could be prosecuted if he did, the filing said.

It also reveals Federal Bureau of Investigation agents first interviewed Papadopoulos at the Chicago field office on January 27, 2017.

Prosecutors also note investigators missed an opportunity to interview others about the professor's comments or anyone else at that time who might have known about Russian efforts to obtain derogatory information on Clinton during the campaign. Papadopoulos learned about the "dirt" the Russians had on Clinton the following month, after he began working for Trump, the filing said. In fact, information the US government received about Papadopoulos was what triggered the counterintelligence investigation in the first place.

"Had the defendant told the Federal Bureau of Investigation the truth when he was interviewed in January 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation could have quickly taken numerous investigative steps to help determine, for example, how and where the Professor obtained the information, why the Professor provided the information to the defendant, and what the defendant did with the information after receiving it", the document says.

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