Papadopoulos seeks immunity before possible Senate testimony

Papadopoulos seeks immunity before possible Senate testimony
© Greg Nash

Former Trump campaign aide George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosPoll: Nearly half of Republicans say no one on Trump campaign committed a crime George Papadopoulos urges Barr to investigate examples of 'spying' while he was campaign aide Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators MORE is seeking an immunity deal before agreeing to provide testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The move comes a day after he met with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees to answer questions about his time with the Trump campaign. A source familiar with the House interview told The Hill that Papadopoulos did not receive immunity for that testimony, but his lawyers instructed him not to answer questions pertaining to his plea deal with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

It remains unclear whether the Senate panel will accept his attempts to secure immunity or limitations on his testimony. If Papadopoulos’s legal team is unable to reach an arrangement for him to testify voluntarily, the Senate panel could seek to compel his testimony with a subpoena.

Papadopoulos's lawyer, Caroline Polisi, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNN first reported the immunity negotiations with the Senate panel. No date has been set for his Senate testimony.

Conservative lawmakers on two GOP-led committees say Papadopoulos's testimony reinforced their views that there was political bias against President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE from the top brass at the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) during the 2016 presidential race, describing Papadopoulos as someone who unfairly got swept up in the high-profile federal investigation into Russian interference.

The Republican response following his House interview appeared to empower Papadopoulos, who said on Friday morning that he is considering pulling out of his plea agreement with Mueller.

Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to one count of lying to federal investigators last year about his Russia contacts, was sentenced last month to 14 days in federal prison.

"Given certain information I learned just yesterday — that I can't publicly disclose right now — I'm considering withdrawing my agreement with the government,” Papadopoulos said Friday during an interview on Fox News. "I believe there was tremendous misconduct on the government's behalf regarding my case."

The Senate panel and joint House Oversight and Judiciary probe are examining different aspects of events and decisions that occurred during the 2016 campaign. The Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating Russian interference, while the two GOP panels are examining FBI and DOJ conduct during that same time period.

Despite their different priorities, Papadopoulos is a key figure in both probes because of how he factored into the launching of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia's election interference.

Papadopoulos initially came under FBI scrutiny after he told a top Australian diplomat in 2016 that the Russians had dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE’s campaign in the form of thousands of emails — a statement he made before WikiLeaks began releasing hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. The Australians then alerted U.S. authorities, sparking the start of the investigation into potential ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Following Papadopoulos's House interview on Thursday, Reps. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Mueller report poses new test for Dems Washington in frenzy over release of Mueller report MORE (R-N.C.) and John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeGrand jury material becomes key battle-line in Mueller report fight Dems escalate Mueller demands with subpoena Congress should take action to stop unfair taxation of the digital economy MORE (R-Texas) criticized the emphasis put on him, someone who had been with the campaign for only a short period of time before the probe was launched.

“It really stretches credibility to figure out why the FBI opened this high-profile investigation into potential collusion between a presidential campaign and the Russian government that centers around a person who has to this day never been to Russia and who to this day has never knowingly talked to anyone with the Russian government,” Ratcliffe told reporters.

“The facts are astounding, that we would allow this type of investigation to be embarked upon without any real solid foundation of collusion,” Meadows said, describing Papadopoulos as having very “limited” involvement with the Trump campaign.

Democrats have described this GOP-led investigation as an attempt to distract or undermine Mueller’s investigation.

“I see this whole thing as a footnote to a side-show of a wild goose chase. The special counsel has been working seriously and methodically,” Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDems plot aggressive post-Mueller moves, beginning with McGahn House Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE (D-Md.) said Thursday. “Generally, there is a right-wing echo chamber that traffics in rumors and lies and fake news — and they all send it back to each other.”

It is unclear what Papadopoulos told House lawmakers and congressional investigators on Thursday, but he has made a series of serious public allegations that the United Kingdom and Australia targeted him as part of an effort to “sabotage” Trump’s campaign. He has no yet provided evidence to support those claims.

On Twitter, Papadopoulos has said the two U.S. allies colluded with the Obama administration to “fabricate collusion and crimes.”

Trump and his advisers have repeatedly denied any collusion between Russia and his campaign.