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Trump aide jailed for lying to FBI

September 8, 2018

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, has been sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying to agents investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He's the first ex-aide to be jailed in the probe.

George Papadopoulos
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Martin

A US judge handed George Papadopoulos a 14-day prison sentence on Friday, noting that the former campaign adviser to US President Donald Trump had "lied in an investigation that was important to national security."

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russian intermediaries. He is the first campaign aide to be sentenced in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing probe into possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 election campaign of then-Republican candidate Trump.

"I hope to have a second chance to redeem myself," Papadopoulos told the federal court in Washington. "I made a dreadful mistake but I am a good man."

Read moreWhat you need to know about the Mueller investigation

Light sentence

Government prosecutors had demanded a prison sentence of up to six months, saying that Papadopoulos' lies had impeded their investigation and that his efforts to cooperate were "at best begrudging."

Judge Randolph Moss said he took into consideration Papadopoulos' "genuine remorse" in issuing the lesser sentence, which included 200 hours of community service, a $9,500 fine and a year on parole.

Read moreTrump pooh-poohs Papadopoulos meeting

Russian connection

Papadopoulos, who was on Trump's national security and foreign policy advisory board during the presidential campaign, testified that senior campaign members encouraged him to build ties with Russia in the leadup to the election.

One of the 31-year-old's contacts was a London-based professor, Joseph Mifsud, who told him in April 2016 that Russian officials had "dirt" on Trump's presidential rival Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails."

Weeks later, stolen Clinton emails were leaked online by what US intelligence officials say were Russian actors.

Read more: Donald Trump denies collusion, says Russia probe 'a disaster'

Defense lawyer Thomas Breen said his client was only interested in using his connections with Mifsud and other Russian nationals to broker a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — a move he believed the campaign supported.

In court papers, Breen said Papadopoulos proposed the idea at a meeting in March 2016 with Trump, then-campaign adviser Jeff Sessions who went on to become US attorney general, and other foreign policy campaign advisers. Both Trump and Sessions appeared to support the plan, according to the lawyer. Sessions has previously denied backing such a proposal.

'Self-interest over the national interest'

In delivering the sentence, Judge Moss said that while he did not "remotely believe Mr. Papadopoulos was seeking to assist the Russian government," he was nevertheless disturbed by the former aide's selfish motives in fibbing to the FBI because he hoped for a job in the Trump administration.

"In some ways it constitutes a calculated exercise of self-interest over the national interest," the judge said.

Russia rejects allegations that it meddled in the campaign. President Trump also denies collusion, and has repeatedly referred to the Mueller probe as a "witch hunt." He reacted swiftly to Friday's sentence via Twitter, ridiculing it as a trivial result for an investigation that has cost millions.

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

Some 35 people and entities have been charged in the Mueller investigation so far. Five have pleaded guilty. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, have accepted plea deals and are awaiting sentencing. Other officials on trial include Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.  

nm/bw (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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