Special counsel prosecutors told a federal judge on Wednesday that they oppose a request by former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos to delay the prison sentence he received for lying to federal investigators.
Papadopoulos asked the D.C. District Court to postpone his imprisonment until after the D.C. Circuit Court rules on the constitutionality of Robert Mueller's appointment as special counsel to lead the probe into Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Mueller's appointment was challenged by a court appeal filed by Andrew Miller, a onetime aide to longtime associate of president Trump Roger Stone who refused to appear before a grand jury in August.
The outcome of Miller's appeal may "impact the validity of Mr. Papadopoulos's prosecution and conviction," Papadopoulos' lawyers argued in a court filing. "If the appeal is successful, then the Special Counsel lacked constitutional authority to prosecute Mr. Papadopoulos in the first instance," they added.
Federal prosecutors, however, argued before Judge Randolph Moss that Papadopoulos himself is not a party to the appeal in question before the circuit court, and wrote that "his motion is made for purposes of delay, and he has not presented a substantial legal question that is likely to result in reversal."
They noted that despite pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI, Papadopoulos repeatedly and publicly criticized his sentencing on Twitter. In October, the former Trump campaign aide wrote, "I have been sentenced to prison in our country while having exculpatory evidence hidden from me. If I knew what I knew today, I would have never plead guilty." Last week, Papadopoulos wrote, "Biggest regret? Pleading guilty[.]" Those tweets have since been deleted.
The special counsel's team stressed that throughout the plea agreement process, Papadopoulos was informed of his rights, including his right to appeal, which he did not choose. "[B]eginning to serve a sentence within his contemplated plea range while a legal issue is pending on appeal in an unrelated case does not qualify as hardship or inequity," the prosecutors wrote.
Papadopoulos' attorneys attempted to make the case that their client "risks unnecessarily serving a sentence of incarceration that was unconstitutionally obtained."
"The defendant received what he bargained for, and holding him to it is not a hardship," Mueller's team wrote in the government's response.
Papadopoulos — who was questioned by FBI officials about his interactions with Russian intermediaries, including a Maltese professor who told him the Kremlin had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton — was set to begin his 14 days of incarceration on Nov. 26.
The D.C. court has already heard arguments on the appeal challenging the legality of Mueller's appointment that Papadopoulos's lawyers cited as the reason to delay his prison sentence. If it is denied, lawyers for Miller, Stone's confidant, said they wish to see the case be brought before the Supreme Court.