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Trump's blame game is wearing very thin

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos secretly pleaded guilty three weeks earlier, it turned out, to charges that he lied to FBI agents about meetings he had with Kremlin-connected Russians during last year's presidential campaign who claimed to have "dirt" about Hillary Clinton's campaign.

News of the plea came as Manafort and Gates were charged with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges related to their work advising a political party in Ukraine that is friendly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sanders tried to dismiss Papadopoulos as "a volunteer." That sounds like his job was no more important than answering phones. But he had enough clout to be one of five people Trump listed and praised as foreign policy advisors during a Washington Post editorial board meeting last year.

But his dirt-chasing contacts sound very much like the invitation Donald Trump Jr. received to another meeting with Russians to which Junior famously replied, "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."

Papadopoulos, according to court filings, was told by an unidentified "professor" with Kremlin contacts -- since identified as Joseph Mifsud of Scotland's University of Stirling -- that Russians had "dirt" on Clinton, including "thousands of emails." This came a month after Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta's emails were hacked in March.

There's a lot more to this story, but you get the idea. Papadopoulos plea deal as a "proactive cooperator," rebuts Trump's weak charges of "fake news" -- especially if, as CNN legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin speculated, Papadopoulos has been wearing a wire. As former FBI head James Comey said under different circumstances, "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."

As Mueller's investigation moves closer into Trump's inner circle, Watergate-style questions arise, such as "What did the president know and when did he know it." In Trump's case, the question of what he did not know is just as appropriate.

However he may have handled his affairs in the private sector, he was poorly prepared in many ways for the extra accountability that public sector jobs entail, especially in the White House. In Trump's case, I can't help but wonder not only about what he didn't know but also why he didn't seem to care -- as long as he had someone else to blame.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2017 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

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