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Papadopoulos sentenced to 14 days in jail in Mueller probe
Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos has been sentenced to 14 days in federal prison and one year supervised release for lying to FBI investigators about his Russia contacts.
Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in October to lying to FBI agents, is the first Trump campaign official to be sentenced as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's election interference.
The former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser was also sentenced on Friday afternoon in federal court in Washington, D.C., to 200 hours of community service and faces a $9,500 fine.
"I made a terrible mistake for which I paid dearly," Papadopoulos said in court on Friday, before his sentence was handed down. "I was not honest, and I may have hindered the investigation."
Prosecutors had asked that Papadopoulos be sentenced to up to six months in federal prison and fined $9,500 for his crime, arguing in an August filing that his misstatements did deliberate harm to the investigation in its early stages and that his cooperation did not yield significant gains.
"This was a serious offense," Andrew Goldstein, representing the special counsel's office, said Friday. "The lies were purposeful, they were calculated, and they caused harm to the investigation."
Meanwhile, attorneys for Papadopoulos asked that he face one-year probation, arguing that he did not lie to deliberately harm the investigation and only lied because of his loyalty to Trump and his professional ambitions.
Defense attorneys also said the former Trump associate provided government prosecutors with "critical information" in a series of interviews following his guilty plea.
Thomas Breen, one of Papadopoulos's attorneys, portrayed him on Friday as a young, ambitious adviser who made "stupid, stupid mistakes" during the course of a high-stakes role on the campaign.
"He was unsophisticated, he was naive, and he was a fool," Breen said. "It was not his intent to hinder an investigation regarding national security."
In theatric remarks to the packed courtroom, Breen also alleged that President Trump has done more harm to the Russia investigation by lambasting it as a "witch hunt" and "fake news."
"The president of the United States hindered the investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could," Breen stated.
Trump mocked the sentence in a tweet, calling Friday "a great day for America."
Still, the judge described Papadopoulos's actions as serious, noting that he has admitted that his misstatements impeded the Russia investigation.
"He was seeking to assist himself in a way that placed his own ambition above the interests of the United States," Moss said before announcing the sentence.
Papadopoulos, a once little-known foreign policy adviser to the campaign, garnered major media attention last fall after becoming the first former campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller's probe.
The news came the same day that Mueller charged former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Richard Gates in an illegal foreign lobbying scheme related to their work for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.
Papadopoulos lied to investigators during an interview in January 2017 about his contacts with Russia-linked individuals who he sought to use to broker a meeting between the campaign and Moscow.
According to The New York Times, it was statements he made to an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that helped trigger the FBI's investigation into Russian interference.
The White House has said that Papadopoulos played a minimal role on the campaign, with Trump describing him as a "low-level volunteer" in a tweet following his October guilty plea.
"I see Papadopoulos today, I don't know Papadopoulos," Trump, who has regularly railed against Mueller's investigation as a political "witch hunt," told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday. "I saw him sitting in one picture at a table with me that's the only thing I know about him."
"They got him, on I guess, on a couple of lies," Trump said, later adding, "I have nothing to do with Russia."
He is the second individual overall to be sentenced in Mueller's investigation, after Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine after pleading guilty to making false statements related to the government's investigations into Manafort and Gates.
Moss said Friday that he used the van der Zwaan case as a "benchmark" but noted their differences.
Updated at 5:48 p.m.