A former prosecutor said George Papadopoulos would be a fool to blow up his plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller.
The former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign agreed to cooperate with investigators after pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents, and Mueller recommended last week that he serve up to six months in prison.
However, his wife Simona Papadopoulos said he would decide Tuesday whether to withdraw from the plea deal, and he has posted cryptic tweets suggesting that he would reconsider his cooperation.
Been a hell of a year. Decisions.— George Papadopoulos (@George Papadopoulos) 1534795430.0
"The whole point of a guilty plea, the judge will say over and over, do you understand what you're doing?" former prosecutor Elie Honig told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
The former state and federal prosecutor said Papadopoulos needs Mueller more than the special counsel needs him.
"Even if he succeeds in withdrawing his plea, it is a suicide mission," Honig said. "He has nowhere to go. He is going to trial, and all indications are he would just get destroyed at trial. I don't think Mueller is sweating this one."
Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said Papadopoulos faced significant legal jeopardy if he withdraws from his agreement.
"He could face potentially up to five years in prison, and I think if the deal is ripped up he could revert to the original charges that were out there against him in the complaint, which included obstruction of justice, which has a 15-year cap," McQuade said. "So I think his exposure would actually be higher."
She said a cryptic "tick-tock" tweet Papadopoulos posted Saturday could be aimed at President Donald Trump, and not Mueller.
"I think the 'tick-tock' could mean something else," McQuade said. "I think it could mean, look out, Trump people, 'I have more to give, I want a better deal than the six months.'"
Mueller complained that Papadopoulos' lies allowed London-based professor Joseph Mifsud to leave the country before investigators could properly question him in the probe.
"In light of what he's done so far, the repeated lying to the FBI and to Mueller's team, that they're just not interested in doing business," McQuade said.
She said the original plea agreement differed significantly from deals reached with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who both agreed to cooperate with Mueller.
"It lacks a paragraph in there about cooperation, that we agree that you're going to continue to cooperate, we might call you to testify, and in exchange we are going to file a motion with the judge under section 5K of the sentencing guidelines to ask for a reduction in your sentence," McQuade said.
"That paragraph is not included in George Papadopoulos' plea agreement, and I think that's because he is a failed cooperator," she added. "They went down that road and they thought, you are just a liar who is never going to tell us what is what. Maybe he has changed his mind, but I think for Mueller's people it is too late. Once they filed that sentencing memo they said, we've made our final decision."