During a press gaggle ahead of his departure for Asia on Friday morning, President Trump was asked what he remembers about a March 2016 meeting with a number of campaign advisers, including Jeff Sessions, where the topic of using foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’ Kremlin connections to arrange a meeting with Vladimir Putin was discussed.
Despite the fact that he touted the meeting on Twitter, posting a photo of himself sitting around a table with Sessions and Papadopoulos, Trump told reporters on Friday that he doesn’t remember much about it.
“I don’t remember much about that meeting,” Trump said. “It was a very unimportant meeting, it took place a long time — don’t remember much about it.”
Trump has good reason to claim his memory is hazy. In February of this year, he told reporters that he wasn’t aware of any campaign aides who had contact with Russia “during the election.” But the details of Papadopoulos’ guilty plea for making false statements to the FBI indicate that Trump — who as recently as last week boasted about having “one of the greatest memories of all time” — was aware of such contacts, at least at one point.
According to the New York Times’ account of the meeting, Trump wasn’t merely in the room when Papadopoulos pitched the Putin meeting — he actively participated in the discussion.
“Mr. Trump listened with interest and asked questions of Mr. Papadopoulos” as he laid out his proposal, the Times reported. Trump “didn’t say yes, and he didn’t say no,” and Papadopoulos continued to try to broker a meeting. Numerous reports have attributed the ultimate decision to nix the idea to Sessions.
In the days following the March 2016 meeting, Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares went on CNN and said that Trump “asked many, many questions.”
Phares said part of the discussion focused on “the kind of coalitions we need we from now on” to fight ISIS.”
The position Trump articulated on Friday is similar to what Sessions is now saying about the March 2016 meeting. Despite repeatedly testifying to Congress that he wasn’t aware of any campaign communications with Russia, Sessions is suddenly acknowledging that the topic of leveraging Papadopoulos’ connections to arrange a Trump-Putin meeting did indeed come up in the wake of Papadopoulos’ plea.
But like Trump, Sessions says his memory is hazy.
Source clarifies: Unclear whether Sessions recalls nixing the Papadopoulos proposal for Trump Putin meeting — though he did do so.
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) November 2, 2017
Trump and Sessions have yet to attempt to explain how they could forget about a meeting where a campaign adviser told them he had connections with the Kremlin that could facilitate a meeting with Putin. Their forgetfulness is particularly hard to square with how how much publicity the topic of Russia’s meddling on behalf of Trump has received in the last year.
But rather than attempting to explain his lapse in memory, Trump quickly pivoted to trying to scandal-monger about Democrats during Friday’s gaggle.
Instead of trying to explain his campaign’s shady dealings with Russia, Trump’s strategy seems to be to muddy the waters by meddling with the Department of Justice and ginning up new scandals surrounding Clinton.