George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser for President Donald Trump's campaign, was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in jail plus a year of supervised released, and he must complete 200 hours of community service and pay a $9,500 fine, for lying to the FBI.
Many reacted by characterizing the sentence as a "slap on the wrist."
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying about his communication with Kremlin-connected individuals regarding "dirt" on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. He is the first campaign adviser to be sentenced in connection with Special Council Robert Mueller's ongoing probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan, who also lied to investigators, was previously sentenced to 30 days in jail.
In an interview with the New York Times this week, Papadopoulos gave his first public account for why he lied to the FBI in January of 2017 when questioned about the campaign's contacts with Russian intermediaries. "I wanted to distance myself as much as possible—and Trump himself and the campaign—from what was probably an illegal action or dangerous information," he said.
"At the time of the FBI interview," the Times noted, "he was being considered for a job in the Trump administration and was concerned about where the escalating investigation might lead. He made no suggestion that anyone else on the Trump campaign or in the administration had directed him to lie."
In a clip from an interview that will air in its entirety on CNN Friday night, Papadopoulous explained to Jake Tapper that he has no memory of but can't be 100 percent sure that he did not tell other members of the Trump campaign about Russians having dirt on Clinton:
George Papadopoulos tells @JakeTapper he "can't guarantee" he didn't tell the Trump campaign about Russian dirt. Watch the full exclusive interview tonight at 11pm ET on CNN https://t.co/RJulxlavTK pic.twitter.com/yg4BqxGerP
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) September 7, 2018
While Papadopoulos's defense lawyer Thomas Breen, according to the Times and other reports, said in court on Friday that "Papadopoulos was loyal to the president," he also appealed for leniency, insisting that "Trump, by repeatedly attacking the investigation as not credible, was damaging it more than his client had."
PAPADOPOULOS’ attorney said Trump’s efforts dwarfed his client’s actions. “The president of the United States, the commander in Chief, told the world that this was fake news.”
He called Mueller’s team “professional” and well-prepared.” Said George was “naive” and “a fool.”
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) September 7, 2018
Ahead of Papadopoulos's sentencing, University College London professor and Washington Post columnist Brian Klaas pointed to the larger trend of Trump-affiliated people pleading guilty to or being convicted of felonies—including the president's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort:
George Papadopoulos will be sentenced today. So, if you're keeping score at home:
Trump's Lawyer: Felon
Trump's Campaign Chairman: Felon
Trump's Deputy Campaign Chairman: Felon
Trump's National Security Adviser: Felon
Trump's Foreign Policy Adviser: Felon
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) September 7, 2018