George Papadopoulos’ apparent double speak about his guilty plea may hurt the former Trump campaign adviser’s chance of delaying his prison time, following a series of court filings in the past week.
Papadopoulos was sentenced this fall to 14 days in prison for lying to investigators about his contact with Russian affiliates during the campaign, a charge he admitted in court and for which he expressed remorse when speaking to a judge. But outside of his criminal court proceeding, Papadopoulos has publicly railed against the FBI, the Russia investigation and his plea deal.
Papadopoulos is set to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons on Monday to begin his jail time. He has asked the judge to delay the start of his sentence. He claims his sentence should be paused while a court of appeals considers the constitutionality of Robert Mueller’s appointment in a separate case. The judge overseeing his case, Randolph Moss of the US District Court in DC, has not yet made a decision on Papadopoulos’ requests.
But Mueller’s Office of Special Counsel, which charged Papadopoulos with the crime last year, asked on Wednesday for the judge to keep the current schedule for Papadopoulos to serve his time.
The prosecutors accuse him of using his recent requests to the court merely “for the purposes of delay.”
They also point out to Moss how the former Trump campaign adviser’s statements “appear to be inconsistent with his stated acceptance of responsibility at sentencing.”
At the sentencing, Papadopoulos delivered a humbling mea culpa. He spoke for several minutes, reading from a paper about how he realized he had hurt the federal investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
He told the judge he had respect for the court system and legal process, and that his guilty plea and sentencing should signal to other witnesses that the Mueller investigation “has global implications and that the truth matters.” His own lawyer, Thomas Breen, told the judge Papadopoulos was “unsophisticated,” “naïve,” “made stupid, stupid mistakes,” and “was a fool.” (Papadopoulos has since hired a different legal team.)
“In hindsight, lying to federal agents about such a critical issue could have harmed our nation, and for that I am deeply embarrassed and personally ashamed,” Papadopoulos said in court in September. He then asked the court for a “second chance to redeem myself.”
Moss responded to him with leniency.
“As I heard what Mr. Papadopoulos said to me, I do credit the sense that he actually does feel remorse,” Moss said, before giving him a lesser prison sentence than other convicted defendants in the Mueller investigation.
Papadopoulos since then has spun government conspiracy theories primarily on his Twitter feed. He has accused federal investigators of “entrapment” in an international setup. “Biggest regret? Pleading guilty,” he wrote earlier this month.
Simona Mangiante, Papadopoulos’ wife, says she’s long opposed his plea agreement. During an interview with the Daily Caller earlier this week, she said that he does not “deserve one day in jail, legally wise.” She claimed that he has not lied to the FBI but “misremembered” dates, and that she has told him he could mount a legal challenge after supposed “new exculpatory evidence” appeared. She did not offer more details, and Papadopoulos’ attorneys have made no such claims in court.
More recently, Mangiante wrote on Twitter that she did not want him to take the plea agreement last year. “Whoever can see he is a wild lion,” her tweet from Tuesday said.
Even on Wednesday, as Moss considers delaying his approaching imprisonment date, Papadopoulos criticized the Mueller investigation on Twitter. “I NEVER flipped against the president. What I did do, however, is expose the corruption of this ‘investigation’ for the world to see,” he wrote. “The legacy is what matters now, how history remembers these days. Silence during these critical days was never an option. All must be exposed.”
Because Papadopoulos agreed to plead guilty and was sentenced more than two months ago, he has waived many of the rights given to criminal defendants. He no longer has the right to appeal his sentence, to request a grand jury review of his charge, or to request a jury trial. He could, however, still attempt to claim in court he has learned new evidence about his case or previously had ineffective legal representation.
His new attorneys did not respond to questions about their strategy on Wednesday.
Papadopoulos’ November 26 prison start date will remain in place unless the judge intervenes.