Donald Trump has claimed repeatedly that he has had no contact with Russian officials as a presidential candidate.
He was lying.
Trump personally met with the Russian ambassador on April 27, 2016, prior to a major foreign policy speech. The Wall Street Journal, in a report that was little-noticed at the time but was recently picked up by AMERICABlog News, reported the meeting last year.
A few minutes before he made those remarks, Mr. Trump met at a VIP reception with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak. Mr. Trump warmly greeted Mr. Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors who came to the reception.
Kislyak, according to multiple contemporaneous news reports, was seated in the front row. It was an invitation-only event.
A photo from AFP captures Kislyak taking his seat.
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Trump used the speech to call for warmer relations with Russia. “I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia — from a position of strength only — is possible, absolutely possible,” Trump said. “Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out.”
Russia was pleased with his speech:
Trump has repeatedly insisted that neither he nor anyone on his campaign was in contact with Russia during the election.
“Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia,” Trump said during a February 16 press conference. He said he contacts with Russia were limited to talking twice to Vladimir Putin after election day.
On February 20, Trump spokesperson Sarah Sanders flatly declared that the Trump campaign had “no contacts” with Russia.
We’ve since learned that at least four members of the Trump campaign — Jeff Sessions, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and J.D. Gordon — talked with Russian officials during the campaign.
Sessions, now the Attorney General, recused himself from any investigation of the Trump campaigns contacts with Russia after he falsely told the Judiciary Committee he had not met with any Russian officials.
Trump’s own meeting with Kislyak raises further questions about the nature of the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia and why the Trump administration won’t come clean about the extent of their contacts.
UPDATE (3/8): The White House acknowledges that Trump met the Russian ambassador last April, despite previous statements that he had “zero” involvement with Russian officials. White House officials told Bloomberg that the encounter was “brief and non-substantive.”