Papadopoulos claims candidate Trump gave nod of ‘approval’ to planning meeting with Putin

Papadopoulos claims candidate Trump gave nod of ‘approval’ to planning meeting with Putin

A former campaign aide accused of lying to the FBI said that then-candidate Donald Trump “nodded with approval” at his suggestion of setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosFlynn sentencing move spurs questions about duration of Mueller probe Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation Trump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe MORE’s lawyers argued in new probation filings that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE was open to his suggestions about meeting with the foreign leader in March of 2016, The Associated Press reported Saturday.

Papadopoulos allegedly volunteered to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin during a gathering with Trump’s foreign policy advisers, including Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump distances himself from Rosenstein by saying Sessions hired him Gowdy: Declassified documents unlikely to change anyone's mind on Russia investigation Pompeo on Rosenstein bombshell: Maybe you just ought to find something else to do if you can't be on the team MORE — who was a GOP senator at the time.

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“While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it,” defense lawyers wrote.

His lawyers argued in a 16-page defense memo that Papadopoulos was “eager to show his value to the campaign" and should receive leniency. 

The aide was hired by the campaign in March 2016 without any previous knowledge of Russian or U.S. diplomacy, AP noted.

Papadopoulos lied to FBI agents not to hurt special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation but to “save his professional aspirations and preserve a perhaps misguided loyalty to his master,” his defense lawyers wrote, according to the AP.

They acknowledge that he “lied, minimized and omitted material facts.”

However, due to his loyalty to Trump and his desire to play a pivotal role in his new administration, “he hoisted himself upon his own petard,” his lawyers argued.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to FBI agents about his communications with Russians and a London professor and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. 

Papadopoulos's bragging about seeking dirt on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGraham: There's a 'bureaucratic coup' taking place against Trump Fox News poll shows Dems with edge ahead of midterms Poll: Democrats in position to retake the House MORE from the Russians during the presidential campaign first launched Mueller's probe, according to congressional investigators.

Mueller recommended last month that Papadopoulos be sentenced to zero to six months in prison and face a fine of $9,500.

Papadopoulos’s wife, Simona Mangiante, suggested last month that she wanted her husband to back out of the deal after her confidence in the Mueller probe wavered.

"I trusted the institutions until they proved me wrong," Mangiante told MSNBC, adding that she had been made aware of "exculpatory evidences that fully justify him to drop off his plea agreement."

She later said that Papadopoulos will stick with the plea deal arranged with Mueller and take “responsibility for some inaccuracies” during his FBI interview.