President Trump mocked the light sentence handed down to George Papadopoulos on Friday as proof that "there was no collusion" with Russia, announcing the news of "a great day for the United States."
But his comments came shortly before an interview aired on CNN in which his former assistant admitted that he "can not guarantee" that he never told anyone in the Trump campaign that Russian officials had damaging messages about Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos told the network that he did not remember sharing the information with anyone in the campaign, before adding: "I could have done it, but I do not remember doing it." I can not guarantee it & # 39;
George Papadopoulos admitted that he "can not guarantee" that he never told anyone in the Trump campaign that the Russians had harmful messages about Hillary Clinton
Papadopoulos, the first campaign assistant convicted in the ongoing investigation of special lawyer Robert Mueller for alleged collusion, received 14 days in prison and a $ 9500 fine for lying to the FBI, well below the six months pursued by the prosecution.
According to a general accusation this summer, Russian intelligence had stolen emails from the campaign of Clinton and other Democratic groups in April 2016, the same month Papadopoulos told the Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud that the Russians had told him they had & # 39; dirt & # 39; with Clinton in the form of & thousands of emails & # 39;
Speaking with Jake Tapper for a taped interview before his guilty plea, but aired on Friday, Papadopoulos refused to rule out the possibility that he would ever inform the Trump team that he knew Russia had the emails.
"As far as I remember, I absolutely did not share this information with anyone in the campaign," said Papadopoulos, adding, "I could have done it, but I do not remember doing it." I can not guarantee
"All I can say is that my memory tells me that I never shared it with anyone in the campaign."
He also repeated his assertion that then Senator Jeff Sessions supported the idea of a meeting between the candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which contradicts the testimony of the now Attorney General before Congress.
Papadopoulos said that Trump gave a kind of assent & # 39; when he raised the idea of the meeting, but that Sessions was really excited & # 39; with the fact. The sessions told a Congress that they had "rejected" the idea.
The comments were made in a television interview shortly after Trump announced his brief 14-day sentence as evidence that his trial had not discovered any collusion with Russia.
President Trump speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One on his way to Fargo, North Dakota, on Friday
In statements made after his sentencing, Papadopoulos said he was "deeply embarrassed and ashamed" for lying to FBI agents during an interview last year and acknowledged that his actions could have hampered his work.
"I made a terrible mistake, but I am a good man anxious for redemption," Papadopoulos said Friday. Earlier on Friday, Trump, who rejected Mueller's investigation as a "witch-hunt," denied knowing him.
Papadopoulos, who served as foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, has been a central figure in Russia's research dating back to Mueller's appointment in May 2017.
Papadopoulos also repeated his assertion that then-Senator Jeff Sessions (photographed in Alabama on Friday) supported the idea of a meeting between candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He was the first to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation, while his case was also the first to detail that a member of the Trump campaign was aware of Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election while it was ongoing.
US District Judge Randolph Moss said Papadopoulos' deception was "not a noble lie" and that he lied because he wanted a job in the Trump administration and did not want to jeopardize that possibility by being linked to the Russian investigation.
"In some way, it constitutes a calculated exercise of personal interest on the national interest," the judge said.
The notes written by Republicans and Democrats, now declassified, also show that information about Papadopoulos' contacts with Russian intermediaries triggered the FBI's counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 on the possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
That probe was then taken by Mueller.
Papadopoulos used his connections with Professor Mifsud, a Maltese, and other Russian citizens in an attempt to mediate a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Putin.
Papadopoulos leaves the US District Court. UU In Washington, DC, on Friday after receiving his sentence
He admitted last year that he lied to the FBI about those contacts. In court documents filed before sentencing, prosecutors say those lies caused irreparable harm to the investigation during its first months.
Prosecutors wrote that these false statements, made during a January 2017 interview with federal investigators, caused the FBI to miss the opportunity to interview Mifsud while in the United States.
"The defendant's lies undermined the investigators' ability to challenge the professor or potentially arrest or arrest him while he was still in the United States," they wrote, noting that Mr. Mifsud left the United States. UU In February 2017 and has not returned.