Papadopoulos considers withdrawing from plea deal with Mueller

Former Trump campaign adviser George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosFlynn, Papadopoulos to speak at event preparing 'social media warriors' for 'digital civil war' Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia over election interference Mueller hearings should lead Democrats to be shocked at abuse of justice system MORE said Friday that he is considering withdrawing from his plea deal with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE, repeating his assertion that he was set up by Western intelligence agencies.

“I believe there was tremendous misconduct on the government’s behalf regarding my case,” Papadopoulos said in an interview on Fox News. “Given certain information that I learned yesterday that I can’t publicly disclose right now, I’m actually even considering withdrawing my agreement I’ve come to with the government.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russia-linked individuals. He agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation and was sentenced last month to 14 days in prison after government prosecutors suggested his cooperation bore little fruit.

Legal analysts said it would be difficult, and likely impossible, for Papadopoulos to withdraw from his plea agreement at this stage, given that he has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

“If he is suggesting that he has the ability to withdraw from a guilty plea after he has been sentenced, I suspect he has not consulted a competent lawyer on that topic,” said Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor in D.C. who added that an individual can't withdraw, “absent ineffective assistance of your counsel.”

He said withdrawing would mean proving the defense attorney had either defrauded the client or was “wildly incompetent.”

“That might be a basis to withdraw, but it’s a very strict test that the courts apply when they are entertaining a motion to withdraw a guilty plea,” Kirschner said. “Usually, it can’t be done after he has been sentenced.” 

A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment.

Court filings unsealed last year revealed that Papadopoulos in spring 2016 had been told by a London-based professor, later identified as Joseph Mifsud, that that Russians had “dirt” on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Trump seeks to project confidence on economy at New Hampshire rally MORE in the form of “thousands of emails” — before WikiLeaks began releasing hacked Democratic emails. Eventually, it was revealed that Papadopoulos's statements about that encounter to an Australian diplomat helped trigger the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible links to Moscow.

Papadopoulos tried unsuccessfully to broker a meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and last year admitted to lying about those efforts to the FBI.

Since his sentencing last month, at which he showed remorse for his actions, Papadopoulos has grown more vocal on social media and in the press, alleging that his meeting with Mifsud was a setup orchestrated by Western intelligence agencies.

On Thursday, he testified behind closed doors before two House committees probing allegations of bias at the Justice Department and FBI in the early days of the Russia investigation. Republicans who have been critical of the FBI’s decision-making seized on his testimony, saying it raises questions about the genesis of the probe.

“The facts are astounding that we would allow this type of investigation to be embarked upon without any real solid foundation of collusion,” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGun store billboard going after the 'Squad' being removed following backlash Hurd retirement leaves GOP gloomy on 2020 Comey fires back at Meadows amid report he won't be prosecuted MORE (R-N.C.), an ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren unveils Native American policy plan Live-action 'Mulan' star spurs calls for boycott with support of Hong Kong police Don't let other countries unfairly tax America's most innovative companies MORE, told reporters following the meeting Thursday.

Papadopoulos said in the Fox News interview on Friday that he was “framed in many ways.” 

“Let’s just say maybe it was a chaotic moment when I pled and that’s why I have new counsel now and we’re actively looking into new options and possibly withdrawing from this agreement right now,” Papadopoulos said.