Barefoot Boy With Cheek

Here’s the sentencing memorandum submitted on behalf of George Papadopoulos.  One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry:

Returning to Washington D.C., twenty-eight-year-old George witnessed his career skyrocketing to unimaginable heights. On March 31, 2016, he joined Mr. Trump, Senator Jeff Sessions, and other campaign officials for a “National Security Meeting” at the Trump Hotel. George’s photograph at this meeting flashed around the world via Twitter. Eager to show his value to the campaign, George announced at the meeting that he had connections that could facilitate a foreign policy meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.

George’s giddiness over Mr. Trump’s recognition was prominent during the days that followed the March 31, 2016 meeting. He had a sense of unbridled loyalty to the candidate and his campaign and set about trying to organize the meeting with President Putin.

H/T to the Lawfare Blog.

Apologies to Max Shulman.

44 thoughts on “Barefoot Boy With Cheek”

  1. This recalls the story of a Chinese merchant who dealt in elaborate wood carvings.

    One day he saw a youngster, maybe twelve years old, sneak into the store and run off with several valuable items.

    At which the merchant cried out, "Stop! Oh barefoot boy with teaks of Chan!"

  2. Before I clicked through to LawFare, I had to assume this was satire. I should have known better.

    But now I have another group of lawyers I will never, ever hire. Or recommend (except to my enemies).

    1. I don't understand your dissatisfaction with the sentencing memorandum, especially in terms of lawyering skills. I thought it was extremely well done and subtly hit some key points that were extremely important to getting their client a sentence at, minimally, the lower end of the guidelines. It is, after all, a sentencing memorandum.

      One point that I thought was made ably was to highlight the unfairness of Papadopoulos being the only arguable Russian spy to potentially end up in jail over interference with the 2016 presidential election. Certainly, Trump and Sessions aren't going to jail. And it's becoming increasingly clear that the conservative milieu where Papadopoulos was striving to become accepted is a cesspool of Russian agents, talent-spotters and spies that is, nonetheless, lauded as the highest of American patriotism in the beltway and on media sources such as Fox News.

      As the sentencing memorandum seems to imply, the federal government is well aware of the activities of Russian intelligence and likely knows the identity of the person (almost certainly a respectable member of the conservative movement) who probably fingered him for Russian intelligence as a likely recruit. There's a certain unfairness is locking up the "coffee boy" while almost certainly giving a large number of other, more established, more important, and more untouchable conservatives and lobbyists with far more compromising connections to Russian intelligence a pass on their relations with a foreign enemy.

      1. The whole "you should go after bigger fish instead of little old me" thing would land a lot harder if Mr. Papadopolous weren't actively obstructing exactly that effort.

        1. I think that's a valid point and it's certainly one that the prosecution stressed quite a bit. From a defense perspective, however, it seems to me that it is well worth pointing out that the investigation being obstructed is a peculiar one in that the prosecutors would appear to have made a conscious decision to exempt the leaders of the conspiracy to rig the election from accountability and to focus exclusively on the small fish like Papadopoulos. Surely, the "coffee boy" shouldn't spend more time in federal prison than the man who used the help of Russian intelligence and organized crime to win the presidency or the sitting Attorney General who approved Papadopoulos reaching out to Putin for help during the election?

          I think if I were writing the memorandum, I would do as these defense lawyers did and stress the fact that Papadopolous didn't obstruct a criminal investigation designed to root out those who tampered with the election but rather is an effort in public relations designed to molify an angry public even as it grants complete impunity to everyone important who participated in the conspiracy. It is, essentially, as though the Nuremberg trials had given a pass to people like Martin Bormann,Wilhelm Keitel, and Hermann Goering and instead focused their righteous anger on sending Sgt. Shultz to the gallows.

        2. I think that's a valid point and it's certainly one that the prosecution stressed quite a bit. From a defense perspective, however, it seems to me that it is well worth pointing out that the investigation being obstructed is a peculiar one in that the prosecutors would appear to have made a conscious decision to exempt the leaders of the conspiracy to rig the election from accountability and to focus exclusively on the small fish like Papadopoulos. Surely, the "coffee boy" shouldn't spend more time in federal prison than the man who used the help of Russian intelligence and organized crime to win the presidency or the sitting Attorney General who approved Papadopoulos reaching out to Putin for help during the election?

          I think if I were writing the memorandum, I would do as these defense lawyers did and stress the fact that Papadopolous didn't obstruct a criminal investigation designed to root out and punish those who tampered with the election but rather an effort in public relations designed to molify an angry public even as it grants complete impunity to everyone important who participated in the conspiracy. It is, essentially, as though the Nuremberg trials had given a pass to people like Martin Bormann,Wilhelm Keitel, and Hermann Goering and instead focused their righteous anger on sending Sgt. Shultz to the gallows.

          1. You said that: "the investigation being obstructed is a peculiar one in that the prosecutors would appear to have made a conscious decision to exempt the leaders of the conspiracy to rig the election from accountability and to focus exclusively on the small fish like Papadopoulos." Not true. All prosecutions of this sort work from the bottom up. In due course, I expect that there will be indictments of Manafort and Trump, Jr., at the least.

          2. My inference from recent developments is that Mueller isn't working from the ground up to effectuate a Gambino Family-style roll-up. Mueller's operation has resolutely steered clear of everyone in the Trump Family and seems to be disinterested in pursuing charges against ay of them. Similarly, the SDNY seems to have very studiously avoided every opportunity to penetrate the Trump Family; the most recent example of which is that people who were in a position to testify against high-ranking family members, and perhaps even the Donald himself, were given immunity to testify against Cohen but they don't seem to have testified against Donald and actually my sense is that they were in a position to reassure Donald that they would not be expected to provide information against him but only against Cohen (whom Donald considers to be a "rat" and a traitor to the family).

            From my perspective, the significance of this is that many of the same people who were involved in the election rigging also are associated with the Trump Organization which many experts have described as a money laundering operation specializing in washing Russian dark and black money (a conclusion with which I agree). If the DOJ is avoiding embarrassing discoveries about Trump and money laundering, it's difficult to see them being able to seriously address the Russian intelligence operation directed at the election.

            This is particularly true when, as I said here before, the guy inside the Trump Organization they immunized to almost certainly not testify against anyone in the Trump Family is widely believed to be the central figure in dealing with Russian and other Eastern European money sources. Similarly, the one person that Cohen doesn't seem to be being squeezed about is his father-in-law, who is an important conduit for that Russian and Eastern Europe money to the Trump Organization..

            Consequently, my guess is that that prosecutors would indeed appear to have made a conscious decision to grant the big fish impunity on the election and the money laundering and to focus exclusively on the small fish. I would be happy to be proven wrong but that's how recent events look to me.

          3. In both paragraphs, you stress that this is how you'd argue if you were amongst "these defense lawyers". But that doesn't really answer what you really think, does it? I mean, if you were the defense lawyer for Jeffrey Dahmer, you'd have to argue for his innocence, right?

            Maybe you could write about your own beliefs, and your own analysis of these facts and pleadings?

          4. I haven't drawn any real conclusions about this case even though I've followed it very closely. None of the pleading in the case are particularly helpful except that the government's letter makes it clear that Papadopoulos, far from being a cooperator, actively tried to obstruct the investigation. And he apparently isn't being pressured to become one, either. Beyond that, however, it's difficult to judge his culpability since we don't know whether he was a chump or a player in the election rigging conspiracy.

            My assumption is that somebody or somebodies working for Russian intelligence identified him as a likely recruit, perhaps while he was at the think tank and perhaps later. I believe that why he came in contact with the phony professor, the phony relative of Vladimir Putin, and the woman who became his wife. There's the obvious suspicion of Russian intelligence's influence in Papadopoulos's appoint as a foreign policy adviser in the Trump campaign.

            One can infer the path that he travelled and his probable destination (Russian spy) but there's not enough information to determine his role in the Trump campaign's collusion with Russian intelligence or whether he had been formally enrolled by the Russians (and, even then, how far along the path of treason he'd travelled). He seems to have viewed his relationship with very transparent Russian intelligence agents more as a networking opportunity within the conservative movement than as treason.

            From my perspective, in the context of the Trump campaign's dealings with the Russians, he does seem to have been a peripheral figure and so I think that the defense memorandum is very persuasive on the unfairness of treating the little fish very harshly while according the big fish impunity. So if you just go by the allegations in the complaint, he's a very little fish and it's difficult to evaluate the harm done by his helping a Russian gangster to evade the FBI without knowing more about Mueller's endgame. If I were the judge, I'd probably sentence him to the low end of the guidelines.

          5. Two things:

            (1) Mueller's shop is famously non-leaky. You can't infer anything from his non-actions.

            (2) "you come at the king, you best not miss": he will have ONE shot at anybody in Shitlord's family. ONE shot. The idea that he should take those shots before he is CERTAIN of hitting them, is …. beyond reason. And let's remember that he's got the entirety of NSA/CIA/counter-intelligence surveillance at his fingertips; he just can't bring it into court as evidence. So he *knows* what they did — he just needs to be able to prove it using admissible evidence.

            Oh, one last thing: No poor black child doing the on-the-street low-level drug sales ever got the kind of kid-glove treatment you're advocating for this Traitor Papadopoulos. By his own words, a traitor — unless of course you think the officials of one of our closest (Five Eyes, remember) allies should be rated less trustworthy than an admitted felon.

  3. How many people could undergo hours of interrogation by the FBI about their most embarrassing activities and mistakes? I think there should be a rule that the FBI advises you at the end that you have x number of days to correct any misstatements you made without penalty.

    1. Pretty sure I could.

      But I don't feel like I'm important enough to be entitled to lie to the FBI, and I don't feel like I'm smart enough to be able to get away with it, and I'm not proud enough to be deathly afraid of embarrassment. Further, I don't have anything in my past that crosses the line between "embarrassing" and "outright criminal and still within the statute of limitations." So I'd just go into an interview like that committed to giving truthful answers.

      Are you reasonably certain you couldn't?

      1. I'm pretty sure that I would very easily be able to give completely truthful answers about my relationships with Russian spies and whether I was a Russian spy myself. Not hard at all.

  4. Papadopoulos was being interrogated about his relationships with specific people suspected of being Russian spies or members of organized crime. He wasn’t be questioned about his porn viewing habits or whether he ate someone’s poptarts from the office fridge. If he didn’t know they were Russian spies and gangsters, he shouldn’t have had the slightest difficulty answering the FBI’s questions truthfully.

    Perhaps I’m being judgmental but if he knew these people were enemy spies or gangsters (as I think he obviously did) and choose to lie to the FBI to give at least one of them the opportunity to escape being arrested, he doesn’t deserve the benefit of such a rule.

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