WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump does not recall a meeting with his foreign policy advisers in March 2016 in which one of them suggested he could arrange a meeting between candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the White House said on Wednesday.
George Papadopoulos, an obscure Trump campaign adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials, in the first criminal charges alleging links between the campaign and Moscow, according to court documents released on Monday.
According to the court documents, Papadopoulos, a Chicago-based international energy lawyer, told the March 31, 2016, meeting that he had connections that could help arrange a Trump-Putin meeting.
Asked at a news briefing if the Republican president recalled the suggestion by Papadopoulos, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “No I don’t believe he does.”
The charges against Papadopoulos were made public just after indictments charging Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide with multiple offenses, including money laundering, conspiracy against the United States and failing to register as foreign agents.
The New York Times said Trump, in a telephone conversation with the newspaper on Wednesday, said investigations into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia had not come anywhere near him personally.
“I’m not under investigation, as you know,” the Times quoted Trump as saying.
Pointing to Manafort’s indictment, the president said: “There’s not even a mention of Trump in there,” according to the Times. “It has nothing to do with us.”
U.S. intelligence agencies said in January that Russia had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to discredit Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump has denounced the investigations as a witch hunt. Russia denies meddling in the U.S. election.
Manafort and Rick Gates on Monday pleaded not guilty to the charges, some of which go back more than a decade and center on Manafort’s work for Ukraine.
Neither Trump nor his campaign was mentioned in the indictment against Manafort and Gates.
Reporting by James Oliphant; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Peter Cooney