Trump Claims Not to Remember Meeting at Center of Russia Probe

First lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House for a trip to Asia, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CN) — President Donald Trump said Friday he doesn’t “remember much” about a March 2016 meeting with the former campaign foreign policy adviser now at the center in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House as he prepared to leave the U.S. on a 12-day trip to Asia, Trump said, “It was a very unimportant meeting. It took place a long time ago. I don’t remember much about it.”

The former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October  to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

He later told agents he used that gathering to offer to arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House responded to word of Papadopoulos’ guilty plea by dismissing his important to the campaign, saying he was only a “volunteer” whose claims should not be taken seriously.

Since then, photos of Papadopoulos with the president have circulated widely, as has audio — first broadcast by the Washington Post — in which candidate Trump can be heard effusively praising Papdopoulos.

The president clearly hopes the Asia trip will distance him from his ongoing troubles at home.

On Thursday the White House announced he will extend the journey by a day to attend the East Asian Summit.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Trump will spend an extra day in the Philippines to accommodate the annual event on Nov. 14.

Trump had been criticized by many experts in the region for originally planning on skipping the summit, saying it put into question U.S. commitment to and focus on Southeast Asia.

Speaking with reporters as he departed the White House Friday morning en route to his first flight to Hawaii, the president said, “I think we’re going to have great success.”

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