Buried underneath the news about President Donald Trump stripping former CIA chief John Brennan of security clearance and new details to be revealed in Omarosa’s forthcoming book, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a new document shining a bit more light on how a former Trump campaign adviser lied repeatedly to the FBI.
On Friday, Mueller’s office submitted a sentencing memorandum regarding George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser for the Trump presidential campaign. Rather than a perfunctory, one-page document listing a recommended jail sentence, though, the document reveals just how frequently Papadopoulos lied to FBI investigators in 2017 — and just how many things he lied about.
All told, the document recommends up to six months in prison for Papadopoulos, who signed the first guilty plea last year related to Mueller’s probe. Papadopoulos is due to be sentenced on September 7.
The sentencing memo details the myriad lies Papadopoulos told FBI investigators in early 2017 — lies that not only helped spin the Trump team’s connection to emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but that helped damage the ongoing probe into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia. As the memo reads, “[Papadopoulos’] lies were not only deliberate, but repeated.”
Over the course of 10 pages, the memo from Mueller’s office lays out Papadopoulos’ fabrications, which ranged from the timing of his contact with Joseph Mifsud — the European professor who initially revealed to Papadopoulos, then working for Trump’s campaign, that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton — to his own role with the Trump campaign.
As the memo read:
The defendant’s crime was serious and caused damage to the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The defendant lied in order to conceal his contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries during the campaign and made his false statements to investigators on January 27, 2017, early in the investigation, when key investigative decisions, including who to interview and when, were being made. The defendant was explicitly notified of the seriousness of the ongoing investigation, and was told that he may have important information to provide. He was warned that lying to investigators was a “federal offense” that could get him “in trouble.” Instead of telling the truth, however, the defendant repeatedly lied throughout the interview in order to conceal the timing and significance of information the defendant had received regarding the Russians possessing “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, as well as his own outreach to Russia on behalf of the campaign. The defendant’s false statements were intended to harm the investigation, and did so.
The memo notes that Papadopoulos “made false statements” regarding Mifsud, claiming the professor was “just a guy,” despite the fact that Papadopoulos believed Mifsud — who is now missing — had “substantial connections to high-level Russian government officials.”
Mifsud hasn’t been seen in nearly a year, skipping court appearances along the way. A spokesperson for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), Mifsud’s last known institutional affiliation, told ThinkProgress last month that Mifsud was no longer an ECFR member.
Spox at European Council of Foreign Relations confirms Mifsud is out, tells me ‘Joseph Mifsud is no longer an ECFR council member. His three-year membership expired.’
— Casey Michel 🇰🇿 (@cjcmichel) July 12, 2018
Mifsud’s last known whereabouts: Rome 31 Oct. 2017 at the Link Campus uni where he was interviewed by an Italian newspaper
He then disappears. Comms with his fiancee stop. Within weeks, multiple phone numbers go quiet, and information about him scrubbed from places of work.
— Alberto Nardelli (@AlbertoNardelli) August 18, 2018
Perhaps most importantly, the memo also details how Papadopoulos’ numerous lies impeded investigators’ attempts to interview Mifsud — especially when Mifsud, who was interested in Papadopoulos only due to the latter’s role in the Trump campaign, was in the U.S. in February 2017.
Most immediately, [Papadopoulos’s] statements substantially hindered investigators’ ability to effectively question [Mifsud] when the FBI located him in Washington, D.C. approximately two weeks after the defendant’s January 27, 2017 interview. The defendant’s lies undermined investigators’ ability to challenge [Mifsud] or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States.
A few months thereafter, Mifsud effectively disappeared, leaving the questions about how, and what, he knew about Russia’s obtaining of Clinton’s emails in the air.
While Papadopoulos may not see years in prison, the memo is nonetheless damning, especially as it pertains to those (like others on the campaign) who claim Papadopoulos was nothing more than a “coffee boy.” The memo should “puncture some of the conspiracy theories that treat Papadopoulos as some kind of victim of an overzealous prosecutor out to get President Trump or as an extraneous ‘coffee boy,'” wrote Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes. “It is also a good reminder that the investigation of ‘L’Affaire Russe’ began not with the so-called Steele Dossier but with an approach to a Trump campaign figure with the offer of ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails — and that that campaign figure then lied, repeatedly, about the approach to the FBI.”
For good measure, the memo also takes the time to refute claims that Papadopoulos was somehow forthright during the inquiry. That claim, undercut by Papadopoulos’ repeated lies, has been pushed most notably by Papadopoulos’ wife, Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos.
The memo devoted an entire rebuttal to disputing Mangiante’s claims that Papadopoulos had “voluntarily reported” his conversations with Mifsud. “To the contrary, the defendant identified [Mifsud] only after being prompted by a series of specific questions about when the defendant first learned about Russia’s disclosure of information related to the campaign and whether the defendant had ever ‘received any information or anything like that from a… Russian government official.'”
Mangiante, as it is, appears to have taken the memo in stride, tweeting about “#birthday #love,” alongside a photo of her husband, over the weekend. (Mangiante’s GoFundMe to help with legal fees is still struggling, failing to reach even 10 percent of her $75,000 goal.)
— Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos (@simonamangiante) August 19, 2018
Papadopoulos himself hasn’t commented on the sentencing memo. On Monday, however, his lawyers revealed to the Chicago Sun-Times that they would be pushing for no jail time for Papadopoulos.
As to the repeated lies laid out in the memo, these misdirections were, as Papadopoulos’ lawyers said, little more than “mistakes of judgement” from the former Trump campaign adviser.