Three for the Friday Night Mueller News Dump™ file, first up, George Papadopoulos got a light sentence plea deal for his role in the Trump collusion mess for lying to the FBI.
A once low-profile foreign policy campaign adviser whose offhand remark in a London bar in May 2016 helped trigger an FBI counterintelligence investigation into President Trump’s campaign was sentenced to 14 days incarceration Friday by a federal judge in Washington.
George Papadopoulos, 31, pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about key details of his conversations with a London-based professor who had told him the Russians held dirt, in the form of thousands of emails, on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos tried futilely for months to arrange a meeting between top campaign aides and Russian officials.
In asking the court for leniency, Papadopoulos said he made “a terrible mistake, for which I have paid a terrible price, and am deeply ashamed,” and that he was motivated to lie to the FBI try to “create distance between the issue, myself, and the president.”
In hindsight, he said in court, he recognizes that was wrong and “might have harmed the investigation.”
Papadopoulos’s attorney, Thomas M. Breen, went further, saying “the President of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” by calling the investigation fake news and a witch hunt.
It seems like small potatoes, but in reality George was a small potato. Like it or not, Mueller has bigger fish to deal with, like Paul Manafort.
Paul Manafort’s lawyers have talked to U.S. prosecutors about a possible guilty plea to avert a second criminal trial set to begin in Washington this month, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted of bank and tax fraud last month in a Virginia federal court. He’s accused in Washington of financial crimes including conspiring to launder money, as well as acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine and obstructing justice.
The negotiations over a potential plea deal have centered on which charges Manafort might admit and the length of the sentence to be recommended by prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the person familiar with the matter said. Manafort, 69, already faces as long as 10 years in prison under advisory sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case.
By pleading guilty, Manafort could avoid the risk of a longer prison term if he’s convicted at a second trial, as well as the threat of forfeiting several properties and financial accounts. He could also save the cost of paying lawyers to defend him at trial. Such white-collar criminal cases can cost defendants millions of dollars.
The talks may break down without a deal, but if they succeed, they could prompt Mueller to request a reduced sentence in both the Washington and Virginia cases. It’s not clear whether Manafort might cooperate in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the person. Trump, who said he was “very sad” after Manafort’s conviction, could still pardon him.
This could be Manafort fishing for a pardon now, but it's a dangerous game, ask Michael Cohen, who's going to be in jail for quite some time, about that. Still, Republicans probably want the Manafort trial to go away ASAP rather than a long drawn out trial smack in the middle of midterm campaigns, and Manafort knows it.
We'll see if the deal happens soon.
And speaking of Cohen, the campaign finance probe is apparently far from over.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether anyone in the Trump Organization violated campaign-finance laws, in a follow-up to their conviction last month of Michael Cohen, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The inquiry, not previously reported, shows that the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office doesn’t intend to stand down following the guilty plea from Trump’s longtime personal lawyer. Manhattan prosecutors are working on a parallel track to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is tasked with examining Russian interference in the presidential election and who is referring other matters as they arise to appropriate sections of the Justice Department.
Representatives of the prosecutors in New York declined to comment, while officials for the Trump Organization didn’t immediately respond to several requests for comment.
Among other crimes, Cohen admitted to violating campaign finance laws. He acknowledged that he paid off a woman who claimed to have had an affair with the president, saying he did it at the direction of the candidate himself and that Trump’s company then repaid him. Notably, the president said the next day that Cohen’s acts weren’t a crime. Whether others in Trump’s orbit were complicit -- steering money to benefit his campaign without making proper disclosures or by exceeding federal limits -- is not yet clear. No one else has been charged.
Again, more charges ill be coming from this, and it won't be Mueller running the probe. Trump can't shut down everything without proving his guilt and causing a massive headache for Republicans going forward.
Stay tuned. This is all far, far from over.