Despite his repeated denials that he met with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump did, in fact, meet with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak as early as April of 2016, and apparently gave Kislyak a front-row seat to a speech Trump then billed as "a major foreign policy address," a meeting that Trump has denied ever taking place, according to media reports Tuesday morning.
In fact, the meeting with Kislyak was reported in May of 2016 by both The Wall Street Journal and on the conservative news site, Newsmax. But it was mentioned only in passing and received little notice at the time.
Newsmax, a site launched in 1998 as one of the early conservative news outlets online, which was recently named as the third-most-trafficked political site on the internet, published the following paragraph in a May 14, 2016, article headlined, "Putin 'Pleased' With Trump."
"But on that same day, Trump met with Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, at a VIP reception along with three other foreign ambassadors."
A news photograph of Kislyak in attendance at Trump's April 27, 2016, "major foreign policy address" can be viewed at this link.
The Newsmax mention of the meeting was uncovered by a Twitter user, Sarah Kogan, and posted on Monday night.
The foreign policy speech, as the headline to the May 2016 Newsmax story implies, was received enthusiastically by the Russian government, including Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. Putin has described Trump as "a brighter person, talented without a doubt."
Trump for his part has repeatedly praised Putin in public, calling him "strong," "powerful," and "very smart."
The meetings between between Trump and other members of his inner circle and Kislyak or other Russian officials came during a time when, according to United States intelligence agencies as well as press investigations, Russia was actively engaged in a covert cyber-hacking and propaganda campaign designed to tilt the U.S. presidential election toward Trump.
Members of Congress have called for a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia contacts to determine if the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Russian government in the covert operation to, essentially, rig the election in Trump's favor. Polls show a decisive majority of the American public also wants to see an investigation of the Trump-Russia contacts by a non-partisan special prosecutor.
In addition to Trump himself, Kislyak is known to have met on numerous occasions with other Trump advisors and political appointees prior to Trump becoming president.
Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign after revelations about his meetings with Kislyak and his subsequent lies about them were made public. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week counted himself out of any investigations of the Trump-Russia affair after it was revealed that he, too, had met with Kislyak and then denied the meetings while under oath at his Senate confirmation hearings.
Trump's own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is also a top White House advisor, also met secretly with Kislyak — and numerous other members of Trump's inner circle have also had meetings, or in some cases extensive contacts with Russian officials, as documented by The Washington Post in the chart that can be viewed at this link.
But Trump and his associates have denied, according to a count by USA Today, on at least 20 occasions that Trump or members of his campaign had contact with Russian officials. But those denials have repeatedly been contradicted by later revelations.
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Kislyak also attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, last July, and while there is currently no evidence that he met with Trump at the convention, the Russian ambassador did meet with Trump advisors Carter Page and J.D. Gordon in Cleveland.
[Featured Image By Evan Vucci/AP Images]