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George Papadopoulos (3rd L) appears in a photograph released on Donald Trump's social media accounts with a headline stating that the scene was of his campaign's national security meeting in Washington, D.C. U.S. on March 31, 2016 and published April 1, 2016. Social Media/Handout via REUTERS(reuters_tickers)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Friday said he did not remember much about a meeting last year with a former campaign aide who pleaded guilty this month as part of a federal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in last year's U.S. election campaign.
Asked about a 2016 meeting that included former adviser George Papadopoulos, Trump told reporters: "I don't remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting."
According to court documents filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Papadopoulos, a minor Trump campaign adviser said at the meeting of foreign policy advisers in March 2016 "that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin."
A photograph posted on Trump's Instagram account shows Papadopoulos sitting two seats from Jeff Sessions, now Trump's attorney general, at the meeting, which Trump also attended.
Papadopoulos has 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 Trump campaign and Moscow. His plea was made public this week.
Sessions is under pressure from Senate Democrats to testify again about the Trump campaign's Russia contacts. He has denied knowing anything about contacts between the campaign and Russians or Russian government intermediaries.
The president spoke before leaving for a trip to Asia, where his domestic woes are expected to dog him. Trump denies any collusion with Russia and Moscow denies interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.
Sessions is also under pressure from his boss, who has made clear he thinks the Department of Justice should look into his former presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and her campaign's behaviour with the Democratic National Committee during the presidential primary race.
Trump told reporters on Friday that many people were unhappy with the Department of Justice, including him.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Alistair Bell)