A court filing Friday that seeks leniency for ex-Trump aide George Papadopoulos said President Donald Trump “nodded with approval” at the suggestion of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, thus contradicting Attorney General Jeff Sessions who had testified otherwise.
“While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it,” the filing said. “George’s giddiness over Mr. Trump’s recognition was prominent during the days that followed.”
Lawyers for Papadopoulos are asking for probation for their client, maintaining that he only misled FBI agents to “save his professional aspirations and preserve a perhaps misguided loyalty to his master,” rather than to harm the investigation.
The 16-page defense memo aims to dispute claims by prosecutors that his lying irreparably damaged the investigation. The former campaign aide is a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He was the first one of the President’s campaign associates to plead guilty and his revelation that a professor told him during the campaign that Moscow has damaging information about Hillary Clinton helped initiate the FBI’s probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
According to his lawyers, in 2016 Papadopoulos connected with professor Joseph Mifsud who introduced him to a relative of Putin’s who allegedly had “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton.
“Eager to show his value to the campaign,” defense lawyers say, Papadopoulos suggested during a meeting with Trump and his foreign policy advisers that he could use his newly established Russian connections to set up a meeting between Trump and the Russian president.
They acknowledge Papadopoulos “lied, minimized, and omitted material facts to the FBI about his foreign contacts,” but again rejected the idea that those lies impeded the investigation.
Sessions, on the other hand, maintained in a sworn Congress testimony that he “pushed back” on the idea of a Putin-Trump summit.