Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea Monday appears to hint toward even more threads of the ongoing Russia collusion investigation than what the court revealed.
Lawyers from the Justice Department’s special counsel office have repeatedly hinted at how Papadopoulos would contribute to a larger, sensitive investigation.
“The criminal justice interest being vindicated here is there’s a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part,” Aaron Zelinsky of the special counsel’s office said during Papadopoulos’ October 5 plea agreement hearing, records of which were unsealed Monday.
The special counsel’s office sought to keep Papadopoulos’ plea agreement confidential because it didn’t want to dissuade witnesses and persons of interest from sharing information with investigators.
“Although the government is moving expeditiously to interview individuals of immediate interest to the investigation, 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 special counsel’s office wrote on October 3.
“Revealing the defendant’s plea would likely chill individuals to be interviewed in the coming weeks,” the filing added.
In a transcript of his plea hearing, Zelinsky also referred to a “road map” it feared revealing about the larger investigation.
Papadopoulos’ court proceedings were unsealed Monday. He pleaded guilty to a charge of making false statements to the FBI, about his contact with three people who enticed him with the idea of a meeting between Trump and Russian government officials, after cooperating with the special counsel investigation.
It’s possible that Papadopoulos’ interviews with federal investigators contributed to the charges brought against former campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, though those counts had little to do with contact with Russian officials.