U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. Credit : Diego M. Radzinschi/ ALM Media
Prosecutors in big white-collar cases routinely hunt for cooperators, sometimes lower-level officials who agree to talk in exchange for leniency from the government. Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has at least one cooperator: George Papadopoulos, who formerly advised Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on foreign policy matters.
Papadopoulos secretly pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his interaction with foreign nationals during the campaign, including Russians, prosecutors said Monday in newly unsealed court documents. The government filed a one-count information against Papadopoulos alleging false statements.
Papadopoulos, represented by the Chicago-based firm Breen & Pugh, pleaded guilty in a closed courtroom in Washington on Oct. 5, the court records show. U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss was presiding. The docket was sealed until this morning, when the government announced conspiracy and other charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an aide named Rick Gates.
“Through his false statements and omissions, [Papadopoulos] impeded the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Papadopoulos, after his arrest on July 27, “met with the government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”
Papadopoulos’ lawyers, Thomas Breen and Robert Stanley, declined to comment Monday. Breen is a veteran criminal defender in the Chicago area, and Papadopoulos reportedly was born in Chicago.
“It is in the best interest of our client, George Papadopoulos, that we refrain from commenting on George’s case,” Breen and Stanley said in a statement. “We will have the opportunity to comment on George’s involvement when called upon by the court at a later date. We look forward to telling all of the details of George’s story at that time.”
The Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 2012 honored Breen with a lifetime achievement award, according to Breen’s website bio. Breen represents an ex-Chicago police officer who’s charged with two others for allegedly helping to hide details about a controversial police shooting. Breen has made appearances in dozens of criminal cases in Chicago federal district court, records show.
The charges against Papadopoulos, brought in late July, were signed by Jeannie Rhee, Andrew Goldstein and Aaron Zelinsky, members of the prosecution team assembled by Mueller.
Papadopoulos must continue to talk with investigators in exchange for the government—at the time of sentencing—telling the judge about the cooperation. Papadopoulos’ sentencing, according to his plea agreement, could be delayed until his “efforts to cooperate have been completed, as determined by the government.” He faces zero to six months in prison based on the calculations presented in his plea agreement. Ultimately, the judge has the final say on what sentence Papadopoulos will receive.
“The government agrees to bring to the court’s attention at sentencing the defendant’s efforts to cooperate with the government, on the condition that [Papadopoulos] continues to respond and provide information regarding any and all matters that the government deems relevant,” Papadopoulos’ plea agreement said.
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