Less than 16 hours after Donald Trump suddenly and unexpectedly fired FBI Director James Comey — the man who was leading the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia to tip the 2016 Presidential Election to Trump — sending shockwaves through the political world, Trump met in the White House with two top Russian officials both of whom have been named as central figures in the Trump Russia scandal.
In an even more bizarre twist, all United States media outlets were barred from witnessing the meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a meeting also attended by Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. But a Russian site media photographer was allowed into the meeting, meaning that the U.S. public was forced to rely solely on the Russian government for any look at Trump’s activities with the two Russian officials.
One of those Russian state media photographs can be seen at the top of this page, depicting (from left to right) Lavrov, Trump and Kislyak.
In a report on the meeting, The Washington Post noted that it is highly unusual for a president to meet with foreign individuals who are at the center of scandals.
“Kislyak’s presence was surprising,” the paper wrote, “He’s a key figure in the investigation of the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.”
It was Kislyak who met with former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, meetings that Flynn later lied about, which led to his resignation under pressure in February. Kislyak also had conversations with then-Senator Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s attorney general and a key adviser to Trump during last year’s presidential campaign.
Sessions later lied under oath, denying those meetings at his Senate confirmation hearings for the attorney general’s cabinet position.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who now serves as a top White House adviser, also held secret meetings with Kislyak in Trump Tower during the transition period between the November election and Trump’s inauguration on January 20. Senate investigators have said they plan to question Kushner about what he discussed with Kislyak at the previous secret meetings with the high-ranking Russian official.
Lavrov, as head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, has also been alleged to have played an important role in the Russian cyber-attacks that resulted in the hacking and release of stolen emails from inside the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign.
According to the “Steele Dossier,” the intelligence file compiled privately by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, it was Kislyak who oversaw the Russian hacking operation, at least during the initial period of the cyber attack.
(4) Here’s pg. 28 of the intel dossier developed by ex-MI6 Russia-desk head Steele via Kremlin sources. LAVROV is who TRUMP meets TOMORROW. pic.twitter.com/CxUhE8NQl1
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) May 10, 2017
Coming hot on the heels of the Comey firing, a move that most observers say was clearly designed to put the brakes on the FBI investigation into Trump and his associates’ possible collusion with Russian officials — such as Kislyak and Lavrov — in the cyber attack against the U.S. election, the meeting appeared curiously timed at least.
But Trump also was criticized for repeating the tactics of President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, when Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox in an attempt to cut off the Watergate investigation which ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation.
Washington media members were caught by surprise, then, when following the meeting with the Russians, Trump appeared seated next to Nixon’s own National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. The meeting with Kissinger was the only other event on Trump’s calendar Wednesday, and the reasons why Trump met with the 93-year-old former Nixon Administration top official were not made clear.
“It’s an honor to have Henry Kissinger with us.” Trump told the press. “We’re right now talking about Russia and various other matters.”
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[Featured Image by Russian Foreign Ministry/AP Images]