The White House attempted to distance President Donald Trump from former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in the Bob Mueller Russia probe, but a new revelation just put Trump right in the middle of the ex-aide’s dealings with Russia.
The White House and Trump associates insisted that Papadopoulos was just a “coffee boy” and a low-level “volunteer.”
This despite Papadopoulos being busted discussing his Russian contacts with top campaign officials and being photographed at a top-level meeting with Trump and then-Senator Jeff Sessions.
The White House insists that Trump had no idea what Papadopoulos was up to and that the campaign acted “right.”
Trump made the argument himself back in February.
“I was hoping we could get a yes or no answer on one of these questions involving Russia,” a reporter asked Trump. “Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?”
Trump noted that Michael Flynn had contacts with Russia but did not specify if they occurred during the election.
When pressed on whether anyone on the campaign contacted Russia “during the election,” Trump replied, “Nobody that I know of.”
Until Monday there was no evidence to prove him wrong.
Even in July, when it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer with the aim of getting “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Trump insisted he did not know about the meeting and there was no evidence to prove him wrong.
Stashed in Papadopoulos’ guilty plea is a tidbit that undermines Trump’s statements and puts him right into the middle of the scandal.
Papadopoulos told investigators that he told a group of campaign officials including Trump himself in March 2016 that he had been in contact with Russians trying to set up a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin.
“When defendant PAPADOPOULOS introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin,” the guilty plea states.
After the plea dropped, the New York Times reported that Sam Clovis, a top campaign adviser, and others “immediately expressed doubts about the wisdom of the idea, noting that Russia was under United States sanctions and denouncing the ‘optics’ of a meeting with Mr. Putin, according to a former campaign aide who attended the meeting.”
“But Mr. Trump listened with interest and asked questions of Mr. Papadopoulos,” The Times reports. “Mr. Trump ‘didn’t say yes, and he didn’t say no,’ said the former aide, who agreed to describe the meeting on the condition of anonymity.”
Eventually, Sessions, who was the top national security official on the campaign team, shut down the idea and asked others not to discuss it again.
That Mueller’s team snuck in a bit about Trump himself into the indictment is notable, as is the fact that it disproves the defense he’s used for months. It suggests that Trump may not have been as insulated from his team’s attempt to deal with Russia as he once thought.