Donald Trump met with the new Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, on Friday, a meeting that under normal circumstances would be a routine matter, except that in this case, the meeting between Trump and the Russian envoy was kept secret from the American media. The only reason that the meeting became public was that Russian news agencies reported its occurrence, quoting Anotov praising Trump for his personal warmth, according to a Reuters report that relied on the Russian media outlets.
The strange secrecy surrounding Trump's meeting with the new Russian ambassador was reminiscent of the meeting Trump held on May 10 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, when the White House also banned U.S. media for the meeting — but allowed a photographer from the Russian state-run news agency TASS into the Oval Office.
"President Trump received me in a warm and friendly way," Antonov said on Friday, quoted by the Russian news sources cited by Reuters. "The atmosphere was very genial, constructive and welcoming. At least, that was my personal feeling,"
The 62-year-old Antonov took over as Russia's ambassador in August, replacing Kislyak, who is a central figure in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation. Kislyak held numerous meetings and phone calls with Trump associates and campaign officials during last year's presidential campaign.
The Russian government's English-language propaganda outlet RT was one of the few media organizations that reported the Trump-Antonov meeting in advance.
Antonov is a former deputy foreign minister and deputy defense minister in the Russian government run by President Vladimir Putin. He is considered a "hardliner" when it comes to U.S.-Russia relations, as opposed to the easygoing Kislyak.
On the same day that Trump held his closed-door meeting with Antonov, the U.S.-led military coalition battling the terrorist group ISIS in Syria announced that it would stop aerial surveillance of an ISIS convoy of 17 buses in eastern Syria, because Russia asked for the surveillance to be pulled back.
The U.S. had been determined to stop the convoy from reaching Iraq, where the buses full of ISIS fighters could reinforce their embattled terrorist comrades in that country. But that effort will now cease at Russia's request.
"To ensure safe de-confliction of efforts to defeat ISIS, coalition surveillance aircraft departed the adjacent airspace at the request of Russian officials during their assault on Dawyr Az Zawyr," coalition officials said in a prepared statement.
The FBI has been investigating possible collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government for more than a year, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, is reported to be investigating Trump himself in connection with the collusion scandal.
But why would Trump collude with the Russians? And what accounts for his friendliness with Russia, as opposed to the often belligerent attitude he has taken toward many other countries including U.S. allies? Some experts speculate that Trump's business ties to Russia have created the cozy relationship.
Why does Russia want surveillance of ISIS stopped and why would @realDonaldTrump oblige? There must be an answer, I have no idea what it is. https://t.co/Xr2BbTgqMhOn Thursday, CNN obtained an internal document from inside the Trump organization, Trump's private business, showing that even during last year's presidential campaign, when Trump was flatly denying any business relationship with Russia, he was actively negotiating a sweetheart deal to build a "Trump Tower Moscow" in Russia's capital city.
— Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis) September 8, 2017
The deal "would have given (Trump's) company a $4 million upfront fee, no upfront costs, a percentage of the sales, and control over marketing and design. And that's not all: the deal included the opportunity to name the hotel spa after his daughter Ivanka," CNN reported.
Another possibility is that Russia holds blackmail material that Trump fears could be exposed if he were to anger the Russians. The infamous, though as yet unverified "pee tape," in which Russian spies allegedly recorded Trump in a "golden shower" show with two Russia prostitutes in a Moscow hotel suite is believed to be one such possible item that could be used to blackmail Trump.
[Featured Image By Evan Vucci/AP Images]