George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, may have been wearing a wire for the special counsel Robert Mueller Russia investigation from the time of his arrest in July until recently.
If true, Mueller and his team may have gathered significant incriminating evidence on other subjects of the investigation, which could lead to more indictments down the road.
What did Mueller have on him?
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russians.
He admitted to lying to investigators about when he was involved with the Trump campaign, when he had interactions with Russians with alleged connections to Moscow or who claimed to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton, and how significant those interactions were.
How do we know he may have worn a wire?
An easy-to-miss term used in a court filing by Mueller’s office is what opens the door for speculation here:
“Public disclosure of the defendant’s initial appearance, however, would significantly undermine his ability to serve as a proactive cooperator.”
The excerpt was pointed out by USA Today's Brad Heath.
Mueller's office said in a court filing that Trump aide George Papadopolous "indicated that he is willing to cooper… https://t.co/1PF56foYHT— Brad Heath (@Brad Heath) 1509378242.0
The filing is likely a motion to seal, keeping Papadopoulos’s arrest secret to avoid compromising his usefulness in further investigations.
What does ‘proactive cooperator’ mean?
Jeryl Bier, a freelance writer for The Weekly Standard, pulled an excerpt from a 2001 district court filing that sheds some light:
“The term ‘proactive cooperation’ is generally understood to mean that the defendant will engage in some type of undercover work on behalf of the Government, such as wearing a wire and/or meeting face to face with persons suspected of involvement in criminal activity.”
How sure can we be about this?
According to criminal defense attorney T. Greg Doucette, the term ‘proactive cooperation’ usually means one of two things. Either:
- The defendant approached the federal government before the government approached the defendant to initiate the cooperation, or;
- The defendant was engaged in active cooperation such as wearing a wire or monitoring email communications.
“In practice, it’s the kind of thing where judges and defense attorneys both use them so interchangeably, that it can be tough to tell what they mean,” Doucette told TheBlaze on Monday.
Doucette said the particulars of this case give the appearance that Papadopoulos was engaged in the latter form of cooperation, because he did not proactively approach the government to assist in the investigation.
“It seems like he didn’t agree to cooperate until after he was already in trouble,” Doucette said. “Based on the news reports of what he’s been involved with, he seems to me that he’s been an active participant or collaborator for sure. I got the impression that if he wasn’t wearing a wire, at the very least he was monitoring emails.”
Why would Papadopoulos do this?
Doucette said Papadopoulos, knowing he was likely to be charged with wrongdoing, cooperated in order to reduce his eventual sentence.
“The U.S. attorney (hypothetically) will make the argument to the judge that the defendant has been cooperative and they’ve rolled up five or six other defendants in this process, so even though the guidelines say he should get six months, they would recommend that the judge depart downward and give him 10 days or give 2 years probation or whatever it is," Doucette said.