BY: TANNER KENNEY
Former Donald Trump Campaign Advisor George Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days in prison by a Federal judge after pleading guilty to lying to FBI officials as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation of interference in the 2016 elections. Papadopoulos’ role in the probe has long been speculated as his plea agreement was finalized on the same day as the announcement of charges against former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime associate, Rick Gates. However, he has not yet been called to publicly testify before a jury.
At today’s hearing, Papadopoulos’ attorneys asked the judge for leniency in ending his probation immediately as they believe his cooperation and the damage to his credibility in addition to his detention serve as an adequate punishment. The Special Counsel’s attorneys believe otherwise as they claim his false statements significantly hampered their investigation and had requested the maximum of 6 months in a federal prison. By hearing’s end, Papadopoulos learned he would only spend 2 weeks in detention, far less than requested by the prosecution and, yet, still more than the defense had hoped for.
Papadopoulos’ sentencing has raised a number of questions as to what type of information has he provided the Special Counsel, whether he will continue to assist the investigation, moving forward. Gates’ role in the investigation, on the other hand, remains ongoing as he is set to testify in Manafort’s second federal trial scheduled to begin on September 17th in a Virginia courtroom, presided over by Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in congruence with his testimony in Maryland before Judge T.S. Ellis III.
In the first trial, alone, Gates testified to the crimes he committed during his time as an associate of and working for Manafort, including Trump Campaign Aide, and may have more details to share, in the coming weeks. Given the Special Counsel’s numerous appeals to delay Papadopoulos’ sentencing hearing, in addition to requesting similar accommodations for Gen. Michael Flynn, it is possible that Mueller sees Papadopoulos as an asset similar in significance, with the ability to testify to his knowledge and possession of information related to the interference in any number of elections and questionable lobbying.
All of this comes at a time of heightened drama in the Senate, as well, where Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley is simultaneously conducting the hearings to confirm D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court whilst overseeing the nomination of William Evanina, Acting Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, to a permanent senior counterintelligence position within the Department of Justice.
For his role in the latter, Sen. Grassley has placed a hold on Evanina in the hopes of obtaining highly confidential documents related to the Special Counsel’s probe of meddling in the 2016 elections. Moreover, the hyper-partisanship seen across the current American political landscape is highlighted by the fiery Judiciary Committee hearings being held on Judge Kavanaugh this week in that the traditional norms of the process have been ignored in their entirety. One of the looming questions in the Kavanaugh hearings is his position on the Mueller investigation and how, if he was confirmed, he would vote on the legitimacy and continuity of the investigation into the 2016 elections. As the hearings continued to take a contentious turn, Sen. Corey Booker (D–NJ) released “Committee Confidential” documents relating to questions that Kavanaugh had previously refused to answer publicly or in private. The fiery debate over the ethical concerns held and conflicts of interest cited by numerous Senators will continue through next week as Kavanaugh’s confirmation grows more implausible by the hour.
In the midst of all of this, the grand jury testimony of former Trump Campaign Advisor Roger Stone’s associates, the “Manhattan Madam” Kristin Davis and New York City-based radio host Randy Credico, may well lead to additional rounds of indictments. Their appearances before the empaneled jurors may very well lead to the public revelation of additional contacts between Stone and the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, in the months leading up to the election of President Donald Trump.
Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy.
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