WASHINGTON (Reuters) – George Papadopoulos, a former aide to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in prison after pleading guilty last year to lying to federal agents investigating whether campaign members coordinated with Russia before the election.
Prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Papadopoulos lied to agents about his contacts with Russians during the campaign “to minimize both his own role as a witness and the extent of the campaign’s knowledge of his contacts,” according to the government’s sentencing memorandum.
Among those contacts were London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, who told him the Russians had “dirt” on Trump’s Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” Russia has denied U.S. allegations that it interfered in the campaign and President Trump denies campaign collusion.
Prosecutors had asked Judge Randolph Moss in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to impose a prison sentence of up to six months, saying that Papadopoulos’ lies impeded their investigation and that he did not cooperate.
In addition to the prison time, Papadopoulos was sentenced to one year of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $9,500.
Friday was his first public court appearance since he pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to the FBI while the case was still sealed.
“I hope to have a second chance to redeem myself,” Papadopoulos told the judge at the sentencing hearing. “I made a dreadful mistake but I am a good man,” he said.
Also in court, his lawyer Thomas Breen criticized Trump for calling the Russia probe fake news and a witch hunt.
“The president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” Breen told the judge.
The lies Papadopoulos told in his voluntary interview with the FBI on Jan. 27, 2017, prosecutors said, “undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States.”
In addition, they said Papadopoulos did not provide “substantial assistance” and only came clean after he was confronted with his own emails, texts and other evidence.
In December 2017, two months after his guilty plea, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had plans for a follow-up meeting with Papadopoulos. The FBI canceled the meeting when it discovered that Papadopoulos had sat down for a media interview about the case. He and his wife later participated in more media interviews.
Lawyers for Papadopoulos dispute some of the government’s characterizations, and they asked the judge to sentence him to probation.
“Mr. Papadopoulos’s offense was unquestionably serious as he made materially false statements to FBI agents,” they wrote in their sentencing memo. However, they wrote, the claim that his lies harmed the investigation are “speculative and contrary to the evidence.”
Papadopoulos was pictured in March 2016 sitting at a table with Trump, then-campaign adviser Jeff Sessions who went on to become U.S. attorney general, and other foreign policy campaign advisers.
At that meeting, Papadopoulos proposed brokering a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sessions has previously testified to Congress that he pushed back against the proposal, but the memo filed by Papadopoulos’s lawyers contradicts Sessions’ account, saying that both Trump and Sessions appeared receptive to the idea.
The court filing confirms reporting by Reuters in March about the difference between Sessions’ testimony and how others recounted his reaction to the proposal at the meeting.