Is he sure about this? George Papadopoulos got off relatively easy in Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe into Russian collusion, or at least that’s how it seemed. He pled guilty to lying to investigators and ended up serving only a single day in jail. This morning, however, the former Trump campaign adviser tells Fox & Friends that he now has information about government and prosecutorial misconduct profound enough that he’s willing to fight back:
Papadopoulos alleges that the conversation between himself and former ambassador Alexander Downer — the one that got the FBI interested in him in the first place — was a set-up. His previous company set up a meeting with Joseph Mifsud in Italy for reasons unknown to Papadopoulos at the time. Mifsud drops some intel about Hillary Clinton’s emails on him during the meeting without prompting, Papadopoulos claims, and then Downer asked him about the emails out of the blue a week later. When Papadopoulos found out recently that his old company was a “Western intelligence front,” he tells Brian Kilmeade, the pieces all fell into place.
Now Papadopoulos wants a do-over on his plea agreement, and some members of Congress want a broader investigation into it. After a closed-door interview with Papadopoulos yesterday, Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows accused the Department of Justice of violating Papadopoulos’ civil rights:
One of President Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill is calling for members of the FBI and Justice Department to be referred for potential disciplinary action over their scrutiny of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, alleging — without evidence — that his constitutional rights may have been violated by federal law enforcement officials.
“Not only was there no collusion but there was not even the opportunity for collusion based on his contacts” with alleged Russian intermediaries, said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), recounting what Papadopoulos told lawmakers during a seven-hour, closed-door interview Thursday with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees. …
“I am very troubled that his fourth amendment rights may have been violated and the way that this was conducted was inappropriate” Meadows added. He said he would recommend that an unspecified number of officers be referred to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, though he declined to identify them.
But wait a minute — wasn’t Papadopoulos required to allocute to his crimes during the guilty plea? CNN’s Jim Sciutto reminded people of his admission in court:
At his sentencing, @GeorgePapa19 said: “I made a terrible mistake for which I paid dearly and am terribly ashamed." He admitted he “may have hindered” the Russia probe. And his lawyer accused the president of hindering the investigation. https://t.co/ddmhcaEuvf
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) October 26, 2018
How do we square what Papadopoulos is saying now with what he said then? It’s not all that tough — he may well have lied to investigators, but that doesn’t change or justify investigatory misconduct … and vice-versa, for that matter. It’s the fruit-of-the-poisoned-tree argument, which holds that prosecutorial misconduct creates an injustice which negates prosecution. That depends on the misconduct involved, but assuming that Papadopoulos is telling the truth now about being set up, a prosecution for a process crime looks very weak.
That’s still a very large if, though. It would take a lot of effort to reverse a guilty plea and the deal Papadopoulos got, an effort with considerable risk if it turns out that there wasn’t any misconduct at all. He could end up spending a lot more than one day in prison if Papadopoulos can’t substantiate his allegations here.