- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign adviser snared in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe for making false statements to the FBI, was hung out to dry Tuesday by the White House.

The president called him “a liar” and “low level,” and the White House claimed to have helped prosecutors win a guilty plea by ratting out Papadopoulos to the feds as the administration struggled to move beyond the Russia probe that continues to inch closer to Mr. Trump.

“Papadopoulos is an example of, actually, somebody doing the wrong thing while the president’s campaign did the right thing,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “What Papadopoulos did was lie, and that’s on him, not the campaign.”

Her comments echoed Mr. Trump’s tweet earlier in the day in which he said Mr. Papadopoulos “was already proven to be a liar.” He also called him a “low-level volunteer” — a steep demotion from when Mr. Trump, during the campaign, deemed him an “excellent guy.”

Mrs. Sanders said the Trump campaign deserved credit for turning over all of Mr. Papadopoulos’ emails that revealed his false statements to the FBI about dealings with Russia.

It was the second consecutive day that the White House press corps badgered Mrs. Sanders with questions about Mr. Papadopoulos and the special counsel’s investigation.

Despite vowing not to be distracted, attempts by Mr. Trump and his aides to talk about tax reform and the president’s upcoming trip to Asia were drowned out by the Russia probe.

Mrs. Sanders scolded the press at the daily White House briefing, insisting that the president was getting the job done despite the distraction created by the news media.

“You guys seem completely obsessed with this, while there are a lot of other things happening around the country and, frankly, a lot of other things that people care a lot more about. The media refuses to cover it, and I think that’s the distraction,” she said.

Another controversy erupted after White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly voiced opposition to the removal of commemorative plaques at a Virginia church that celebrated former congregation members Robert E. Lee and George Washington.

Mr. Kelly was widely denounced for making racist or racially insensitive statements when he called Lee an “honorable man” and suggested the Civil War could have been avoided through compromise.

“It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had made them stand,” he told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.

As Mrs. Sanders left the briefing room, a reporter repeatedly shouted, “Does this administration think that slavery was wrong?”

Still, it was the Russia probe that dominated the chatter in Washington.

The guilty plea Monday by Mr. Papadopoulos and a 20-count indictment against Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, gave the probe fresh momentum and kept the White House on defense over accusations that the campaign colluded with the Kremlin to impact the 2016 presidential race.

The indictment also named Rick Gates, a longtime business associate of Mr. Manafort who served as a field operator for the Trump campaign.

All of the charges fell short of implicating Mr. Trump or his campaign in a conspiracy with Russia to affect the outcome of the election. The alleged crimes by Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates occurred years before Mr. Trump announced his candidacy for president.

Mr. Papadopoulos, 30, who was a volunteer member of a foreign policy advisory board for the campaign, lied to FBI agents about his attempts to arrange meetings with Russian agents to get dirt on Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton.

He even proposed a meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to court papers.

Mr. Papadopoulos’ schemes were repeatedly rebuffed by the campaign, though one official told him to go to Russia to get damaging information about Mrs. Clinton.

The information never materialized, according to court records.

However, prosecutors said Mr. Papadopoulos emailed a supervisor and several other campaign officials to tell them he had met with a professor who introduced him to a Russian woman and the Russian ambassador in London, and they discussed setting up meetings to talk about U.S.-Russia ties in a Trump presidency.

The supervisor replied that he would “work it through the campaign” and not to make a commitment at that point. “Great work,” the supervisor added in the email.

In August 2016, the supervisor wrote to Mr. Papadopoulos in reference to a possible “off the record” meeting with Russian officials, saying: “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy adviser “to make the trip.”

The superior was identified in news reports as Sam Clovis, a former adviser to the Trump campaign who is nominated to be the top scientist at the Department of Agriculture.

Asked if Mr. Clovis was still in line for the job, Mrs. Sanders said she was not aware of any changes at this time.

Mr. Clovis also moved to distance himself from Mr. Papadopoulos.

Victoria Toensing, an attorney for Mr. Clovis, did not dispute that he was the supervisor referred to in court documents. But she disagreed with the characterization of the conversations with Mr. Papadopoulos.

“Dr. Clovis always vigorously opposed any Russian trip for Donald Trump or staff. However, if a volunteer made suggestions on any foreign policy matter, Dr. Clovis, a polite gentleman from Iowa, would have expressed courtesy and appreciation,” she said.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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