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Trump tries to dismiss adviser he praised as an 'excellent guy'

The pattern is amazing: when someone in Donald Trump's orbit is embroiled in scandal, he pretend to barely know who they are.
Image: US President Trump leads listening session on human trafficking
President Donald J. Trump speaks during a listening session on domestic and international human trafficking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 23 February 2017. 

Donald Trump initially said very little following yesterday's criminal charges against former members of his campaign team, but this morning the president apparently figured out what he wanted to say. He started, for example, arguing that Paul Manafort's alleged misdeeds "took place long before he came to the campaign."

That's not true. In fact, the indictment specifically covers events through 2017.

Perhaps more important, though, was Trump turning his attention to his former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, who's already pleaded guilty to lying federal investigators.

"Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar."

This posture was predictable, of course, but there are two angles to Trump's new line that are worth keeping in mind.

First, it's far too late for the president to dismiss Papadopoulos as some meaningless, peripheral figure. Trump personally singled out Papadopoulos as an "excellent guy" when Trump listed him as one of only four people he'd brought onto the campaign to offer advice on foreign policy.

What's more, the court documents made available yesterday show Papadopoulos communicating with top members of Trump's campaign operation, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former campaign co-chair Sam Clovis, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. On MSNBC's "All In" last night, Carter Page, another Trump foreign policy adviser embroiled in the scandal, told Chris Hayes he and Papadopoulos may have even exchanged emails last year about Russia.

One former Trump confidant this morning dismissed Papadopoulos as an inconsequential "coffee boy." The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

Second, there's an amazing pattern in Trump World, which Rachel highlighted in an A block last week: when someone close to the president is embroiled in scandal, Trump and his team pretend that the person at the heart of the controversy played no meaningful role in the president's operation.

It happened with Michael Flynn, who was dismissed as a campaign "volunteer." It happened again with Paul Manafort. And then again with Carter Page. And then again with Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that worked with the Trump campaign during the election.

Congratulations, George Papadopoulos, today you've been added to the list.