This who-met-which-Russian during the 2016 cycle is getting silly. In April of 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a reviving line prior to a major foreign policy speech that was hosted by The National Interest at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. It was also very clear that Donald Trump was going to be the Republican nominee and potentially (at the time) the next president of the United States. Kislyak was probably just doing his job, as were the several other ambassadors who were there for the pre-speech reception, where Trump made an appearance five minutes before he took to the podium. Oh my god--SCANDAL! (sarc.) (via Huffington Post) [emphasis mine]:
It is not clear what Trump and Kislyak discussed, or how extensive the interaction was. The New York Times also recently mentioned that Kislyak had attended Trump’s speech. Dimitri Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest, told the outlet he had simply introduced Trump to Kislyak in a receiving line at the hotel.
[Sarah] Huckabee Sanders [White House spokesperson] told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that there was no real meeting with Kisylak.
“The National Interest hosted Mr. Trump’s foreign policy speech and pre-speech reception. Several ambassadors were present. Mr. Trump was at the reception for about five minutes and then went immediately to the podium,” she said. “We have no recollection of who he may have shaken hands with at the reception and we were not responsible for inviting or vetting guests. To state a ‘meeting’ took place is disingenuous and extremely misleading.”
Simes also said he didn’t think there would have been time for an extensive meeting between Trump and the ambassador.
“From everything I saw, when the receiving line was over, the Secret Service led Mr. Trump to a specially cleared holding area behind the podium where he was supposed to speak,” he said Tuesday. “There would have been no opportunity for him to talk to Kislyak separately. After the speech was over, Mr. Trump returned to the holding area and then left the hotel without any time or format for a private encounter with anyone. Again, the Secret Service managed his movements.”
Now, why did President Trump and other members of his inner circle not disclose these encounters, despite their denials is a fair question. None of these meetings are out of the ordinary. There’s not a scintilla of subversion or collusion that’s inherent with these rendezvous. Even former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak don’t appear to be illegal or out of bounds. He did mislead the vice president, and that’s his own doing. He was rightfully shown the exit after that, but when CNN’s John King doesn’t see anything wrong with meetings between the Russians and Trump aides and Associated Press’ Julie Pace agrees—this whole arc, in the absence of solid evidence of collusion, is probably a nothing burger. It’s becoming absurd. With Democrats, they view any meeting with a Russian as an act akin to treason. It's nuts.
The latest episode of this Kremlin caper involves Attorney General Jeff Sessions, where it was discovered that he had two undisclosed meetings with Kislyak during the 2016 election. One was in Cleveland, where both men were spotted at a Heritage Foundation-sponsored panel event about European relations. He did meet one-on-one with Kislyak and several other ambassadors during the event (around 50 total were in attendance). Why was Kislyak there? Well, it was part of an Obama White House-sponsored initiative to bring foreign ambassadors to the two political conventions. The other time was a brief meeting in Sessions' office in September. Weird? No, because Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee—and these meetings aren’t uncommon. There’s also no evidence of collusion and despite what the Left is clamoring about between Sessions and intermediaries of the Russian government. He also doesn’t appear to have misled the Senate Judiciary Committee if you read the full transcripts of his answers to Sens. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Al Franken (D-MN). Sessions has recused himself from any investigation relating to the president and the 2016 election. With all the noise about Russian interference, there is zero evidence of collusion between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign.
It may be absurd, but the Democrats’ descent into Russophobia when they mocked Republicans for saying that Russia is our biggest geopolitical foe during the 2012 election is quite entertaining.