Papadopoulos The “Proactive Cooperator”?
Things turned spooky early for the Trump Administration as the Day before Halloween the Mueller investigation into “Russia-Gate” unmasked two indictments of high level Trump Campaign officials and a surprise guilty plea from a former Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor. The President was able to quickly claim the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates had nothing to do with actions related to the Trump Campaign.
However, the later announced guilty plea of Former Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor George Papalopoulos involved conduct completely related to the Trump Campaign. Further, that conduct was aimed at colluding with Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. The disturbing timeline of Papadopoulos’ contacts with Russians on behalf of the Trump campaign details a longstanding and coordinated effort by the Trump Campaign to collude with high officials in the Russian Government to get dirt on Hillary Clinton related to her emails. While Papadopoulos may have been a low level “volunteer” (as Trump now claims) he diligently kept the highest levels of the Trump Campaign informed of his activities.
A more intriguing question has arisen regarding Papadopoulos. He was arrested by the FBI at Dulles Airport on July 27th. He did not enter his guilty plea until October 5th. The Government then requested (and the judge granted) that the plea be kept secret. In requesting the sealing of the plea agreement the Government told the judge the “criminal justice interest being vindicated here is there’s a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part.” Put simply, the conviction for false statements of Papadopoulos was just getting a small fry, with bigger fish to come. The government feared news of Papadopoulos’ conviction could make interviewing other witnesses more difficult stating “news that the defendant has been charged with and pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents may make those individuals reluctant to speak with investigators.”
The Government also told the judge something else, even more interesting, possibly much more interesting. The Government advised the judge that Papadopoulos was a “proactive cooperator” and that his role as such could be compromised by publicity of his plea bargain. Many have interpreted this as suggesting the Government had Papadoloulos wear a wire and act in an undercover manner to possibly gain incriminating statements from other actors within the Trump Campaign.
The question is, is that true? Is that what “proactive cooperator” is generally understood to mean? I had not heard the term before yesterday and endeavored to find out.
I believe I found the definitive answer defining the term in the Federal Court case of United States v. Garcia, 134 F. Supp. 2d 424 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (FN 1). The case involved a defendant who argued he was not given the opportunity to “proactively cooperate” and thereby reduce his potential sentence (the court rejected his argument). The important part is the court defined this term:
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. This term is in contrast with “non-proactive cooperation” which is generally understood to mean that the defendant will provide historical information to the Government and/or agrees to testify in court proceedings against persons alleged to have committed criminal conduct.
So there you have it. The short answer is it does appear the Government at least considered using Papadopoulos undercover to exploit the trust other actors in the Trump Administration had in him to gain information against them. Further, this likely involved wearing a wire.
A bombshell within a bombshell. We don’t know what, if anything, Papadoloupos may have recorded that might be incriminating, or who might have been recorded. We don’t know if it is connected to the indictments of Manafort and Gates, but the same day timing of news releases for this certainly suggest it might be.
There are likely some nervous folks in the Trump Administration now, wondering when and where and at who the next Mueller shoe shall fall.