By Tessa Berenson
October 30, 2017

The White House portrayed a campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI Monday as a volunteer with an “extremely limited role,” but the plea entered in court detailed contacts with a high-level campaign official.

Speaking during the daily press briefing, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to downplay the role that former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos played in the campaign.

“It was a volunteer position, and … no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign,” she said, noting that the foreign policy advisory committee he belonged to only met one time.

According to court documents, Papadopoulos emailed with a “high-ranking campaign official” during the summer of 2016 about an “off the record” trip to Russia. “I would encourage you … to make the trip, if it is feasible,” the high-ranking Trump campaign official wrote back in August.

The meeting never took place, which Sanders cited as evidence that Papadopoulos was not a key player.

“He reached out and nothing happened beyond that, which I think shows one, his level of importance in the campaign, and two, shows what little role he had with coordinating anything officially for the campaign,” she said.

Sanders also sought to minimize a remark by Trump about Papadopoulous from the campaign.

In March 2016, the then-candidate praised Papadopoulous by name when asked to reveal new members of his foreign policy team in a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board. “George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy,” Trump said, within a list of other names.

“He was referring to the council, he was going through the list of names with the Washington Post, and nothing more than that,” Sanders said Monday. “[He was] complimentary of the people that were volunteering on behalf of the campaign.”

Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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