Special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday urged a judge to deny a request from a former Trump campaign adviser to delay the commencement of his jail sentence, which is scheduled to begin Monday.
George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts while working for the Trump campaign in 2016. In September, he was sentenced to two weeks in jail, a year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service and a $9,500 fine. His sentence was scheduled to begin Nov. 26.
Papdopoulos is the first former Trump aide to be sentenced in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Papadopoulos' lawyers filed a motion on Friday asking a judge to allow their client to stay out of jail until a ruling is handed down in another case, which is challenging the constitutionality of Mueller's appointment as special counsel. They said for Papadopoulos to "serve a sentence for a conviction that may be void, would be unjust."
Some of the arguments made in the case arguing Mueller's appointment was unconstitutional echo those made challenging President Donald Trump's selection of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. They say the process that gave Mueller his authority violated the Appointments Clause of the Constitution and that his powers make him a "principal officer" requiring Senate confirmation.
Mueller's team argued Papadopoulos has no appeal pending and that the deadline to file one expired on Sept. 25. They also said his lawyers' point about waiting on the case challenging Mueller's appointment didn't wash because a court issued an opinion on the matter in August. They said his "newly raised argument has long been available to him."
Since pleading guilty, Papadopoulos has said on television and on social media that he was "framed" and that he never should have pleaded guilty. Mueller's team used those arguments against him, saying they show his most recent motions are just being made for the "purposes of delay."
Papadopoulos served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Although the president has tried to diminish Papadopoulos' role, he touted him as a member of his foreign policy team in a March 2016 meeting with The Washington Post editorial board.
Mueller's team said Papadopoulos "lied to the FBI regarding his interactions with a foreign professor whom he understood to have significant ties to the Russian government, as well as a female Russian national."
Papadopoulos told the FBI his meetings with them were "inconsequential" and occurred before he started working on the campaign.
"In truth and fact, the defendant knew that the professor took an interest in him only after the professor learned the defendant was affiliated with the Trump Campaign, and in late April 2016 after returning from a trip to Moscow, the professor told the defendant that Russia possessed 'dirt' on Clinton in the form of 'thousands of emails,' " the court filing says.
Contributing: Brad Heath