Chuck Ross, DCNF
President Donald Trump granted a full pardon on Tuesday to George Papadopoulos, the former campaign aide at the center of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
“Mr. Papadopoulos was charged with a process-related crime, one count of making false statements, in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the White House said in a statement about the pardon.
“Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.”
Trump also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch national convicted in the Mueller probe. Last month, Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to false statements charges on Dec. 1, 2017.
Papadopoulos was the first Trump associate to plead guilty in the Mueller probe. He served 12 days in prison on charges that he made false statements to the FBI in January 2017 regarding his interactions with a Maltese professor who claimed to have learned that the Russian government had Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane, its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, on July 31, 2016, based on an Australian diplomat’s tip regarding a meeting he had on May 10, 2016 with Papadopoulos.
Alexander Downer, the diplomat, claimed that Papadopoulos told him that Russia might help the Trump campaign by releasing material close to the election.
Investigators initially thought that Papadopoulos took part in a collusion scheme with Russia or knew of Trump associates who might have been. But the FBI probe, and the Mueller investigation that followed, ultimately turned up no evidence of a conspiracy between Trump associates and the Russian government.
Papadopoulos has denied telling anyone on the Trump campaign about his conversations with the Maltese diplomat, Joseph Mifsud.
“Notably, Mueller stated in his report that he found no evidence of collusion in connection with Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election. Nonetheless, the Special Counsel’s team still charged Mr. Papadopoulos with this process-related crime,” the White House said in its pardon statement.
The White House noted that Papadopoulos was not represented by an attorney during the Jan. 27, 2017, interview that led to charges against him.
Papadopoulos told FBI agents during that initial interview about a meeting he had with Mifsud in London on April 26, 2016, where the mystery professor spoke of Russians having Clinton emails. The special counsel’s team accused Papadopoulos of making misleading statements about the timeline of his interactions with Mifsud, who has been in hiding since Papadopoulos’s plea deal was revealed in 2017.
Papadopoulos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.