Three leaders of Russia’s top spy agencies paid a visit to the United States — even though two of them were barred from entering the United States under current sanctions — and had a secret meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Days later, Donald Trump decided that he would not be enacting sanctions against Russia that had been passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.
The strange sequence of events is drawing scrutiny this week after Trump’s controversial decision not to follow through in enacting sanctions that he had already signed into law. As the Washington Post reported, Pompeo had a closed-door meeting with Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, and Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service. A third Russian spy official, Igor Korogov, was in the United States but did not meet with Pompeo. Korogov leads Russia’s military intelligence unit.
Both Korogov and Naryshkin are barred from entering the United States under sanctions imposed by Barack Obama for Russia’s aggression against Crimea. As Business Insider noted, the visit drew questions from Democrats about why they were allowed in the United States. Representatives for the CIA said that the visit was approved through the proper channels, but the timing has raised some suspicions.
Just days after the visit and meeting with Pompeo, Trump’s administration refused to enact sanctions against Russia that passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities. As Salon noted, the administration argued that the sanctions were already serving as a deterrent without having to be put in place, but critics said that Trump was purposely letting Russia off the hook for meddling in the 2016 election in order to help get him elected.
The matter was complicated on Friday when Trump released a controversial memo written by Republicans claiming that the FBI was biased in its investigation against Trump, one that critics say is missing key facts.
And the matter has unfolded as special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is reportedly zeroing in on Donald Trump. Mueller has reportedly requested an interview with Trump and is focused on whether the president committed obstruction of justice in his efforts to stymie the investigation.