AP's Julie Pace: There's Pretty Much Nothing Wrong With Any Of The Meetings Trump Aides Had With The Russians
Matt Vespa  | March 06, 2017

Katrina Vanden Huevel, The Nation’s publisher and editor, was pleased that Michael Flynn resigned over misleading the vice president over his discussions about Russian sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The discrepancy was discovered when transcripts from his conversation with Kislyak were leaked to the press. It wasn’t necessarily that those discussions were illegal. They were not, but misleading the vice president is an offense that should end with you being shown the exit. Yet, Vanden Huevel noted that Democrats’ Russian obsession, the incessant quest to find collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence, and the hope that one of these meetings have a smoking gun where they can pin blame on the Trump-Russian connection for Clinton’s failed campaign is nothing more than “neo-McCarthyite furor.” In short, Democrats and even some members of the media seem to think that any meeting Trump aides have had with the Russians is tantamount to subversion. It’s not.

On Sunday, CNN’s John King aptly noted the ludicrousness of this whole scenario. For starters, he noted that Kislyak did his job. He met with Trump’s staff, these people could be aides to the next president of the United States since by late spring, it was clear that he was going to be the GOP nominee. There is nothing wrong about that. In fact, members of Congress meeting with foreign officials are not unusual occurrences either. Given that, why not say you met with the Russians months prior to Election Day on matters that are not unusual? King noted that such an admission would not be viewed as an illegal act; this is part of the business.

The Associated Press’ Julie Pace said that this aspect is puzzling since “there is actually nothing wrong with any of the meetings that happened. There actually wasn’t anything wrong with Mike Flynn talking to the Russian ambassador during the transition. And really probably nothing wrong with him talking about what the Trump administration was going to do once they took office,” she said.

Yet, she did say that answers would be needed to explain why both Flynn and most recently Attorney General Jeff Sessions felt the need to be misleading about their contacts with the Russians. With Sessions, his two meetings with Kislyak in July and September of 216 were not disclosed during his confirmation process, but maybe it’s because he felt these meetings were in the capacity of his work on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Furthermore, the question asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was a hypothetical and it related to communications between campaign surrogates and what Sessions would do if newly discovered evidence suggested contact with the Russians during the campaign:

FRANKEN: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week, that included information that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so, you know.

But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.

FRANKEN: Very well.

Sen. Pat Leahy’s question submitted via letter asked Sessions if he was in contact with anyone affiliated with the Russian government do discuss the 2016 election either before or after Election Day. Sessions answered no. Now, Sessions may have saved himself some heartburn with Franken if he had just said that he would not answer a hypothetical. Yet, there’s no evidence of perjury. The meetings with Kislyak have produced zero evidence to suggest collusion. In the aftermath, Sessions has decided to recuse himself from any investigation relating to the president’s campaign—a smart move. That hasn’t stopped scores of Democrats from calling for his resignation. Sessions planned on writing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee clarifying this portion of his testimony, while Senate Democrats on the committee want him back on the Hill for more testimony. Regardless, this appears to be a series of unforced errors since, as Pace noted, there’s nothing wrong with any of these meetings with the Russians.

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