WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSMiami/CNN) — When Donald Trump was a candidate he did not dismiss the idea of a meeting with Russia’s president, suggested by his campaign foreign policy advisers last year, according to a person who says they were in the room at the time.
The idea was raised by George Papadopoulos as he introduced himself at a March 2016 meeting of the Republican candidate’s foreign policy advisers, according to a court filing.
“He didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no,” the official said, declining to be more specific about Trump’s response to Papadopoulos.
But the chairman of Trump’s national security team, then Alabama senator and now attorney general Jeff Sessions, shut down the idea of a Putin meeting at the March 31, 2016, gathering, according to the source. His reaction was confirmed with another source who had discussed Session’s role.
Trump’s response to Papadopoulos’ offer could be of interest to special counsel’s office.
CNN reached out to other people in attendance at the meeting who did not respond.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about interactions with foreign officials close to the Russian government — the campaign’s clearest connection so far to Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election. Papadopoulos told the FBI, according to court documents, that in a national security meeting attended by Trump and campaign advisers, he “in sum and substance” said that “he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”
Asked about the description, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the President does not recall specifics of the meeting.
“Again, it was a brief meeting that took place quite some time ago. It was the one time that group ever met,” Sanders said on Monday.
“What I can say is that I think that Papadopoulos is an example of, actually, somebody doing the wrong thing while the President’s campaign did the right thing,” Sanders said on Tuesday.
The White House did not respond to request for further comment. The Justice Department had no comment. Papadopoulos’ attorney did not respond.
A separate former campaign official said the national security team was assembled “to demonstrate that then-candidate Trump was becoming more informed on foreign affairs issues.”
“It clearly worked at the time,” the former campaign official said.
However, the former member of Trump’s national security team described the idea of a foreign policy advisory board for Trump as “fake news” because the candidate rarely listened to his advisers.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)