Russia to diplomat at centre of Trump Controversy
WASHINGTON: The administration of Trump has back-to-back controversies over Russia now have at least one thing in common: Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Moscow’s top envoy in the US has become the Kevin Bacon of the Trump White House’s Russia imbroglio. A Washington fixture with a sprawling network, he has emerged as one of the central figure in the investigations into Trump advisers’ connections with Russia. In a matter of weeks, contact with Kislyak led to the firing of a top adviser to the president and, on Thursday, prompted calls for the attorney general to resign.
Distinctly, a White House official confirmed Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December for what the official called it a brief courtesy meeting. Flynn was pushed out of the White House last month after the officials said that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had conversed US sanctions against Russia in a phone call.
At issue Thursday were two meetings that held between Sessions and Kislyak – one in July and another held in September, at the height of concern over Russia’s involvement in hacking of Democratic officials’ emails accounts. Intelligence officials have concluded Moscow has ordered the hacks to tilt its election towards Trump. In his confirmation hearing, the Alabama Republican denied having contact with any Russian officials, neglecting to mention the meetings with Kislyak, which were firstly reported by the Washington Post.
The Russian Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
Although the White House has dismissed the revelation has been a part of political witch hunt, Sessions’ former colleagues took the mission very seriously. Urgings of some in his own party, Sessions recused himself from the Department of Justice’s investigation. Still, Democrats called him to step down.
Observers note Kislyak is a sort of person unlikely figure to cause controversy. Over the course of a long diplomatic career, he’s led the life of a somewhat typical global envoy – making himself a reliable presence on the circuit of receptions, teas and forums that make up the calendar of any ambassador.