The timing could not have been worse if they planned it.
President Trump had just fired FBI Director James Comey, the man leading the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s operation to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
And yet, just hours later, there they were, Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States, respectively, being greeted in the Oval Office by the President. All that was missing was Vladimir Putin Skyping-in on a big screen like Bill Gates crashing the 1997 MacWorld convention via satellite.
Why would Trump risk these damning optics? Was it purely to stick his thumb in his critics’ eyes? Is just the latest, boldest example of the patented Bannon tactic of actually doing and saying the unthinkable, and making sure everyone sees and hears you doing it, in order to desensitize Americans to the outrageous and make them less outraged over time?
It could have been none of that. Or all of that. But we now know with certainty that the meeting happened first and foremost for one major reason: Because Putin wanted it. According to a Politico report released this afternoon, the President:
“…chose to receive them because Putin asked him to,” a White House spokesman said of Trump’s Lavrov meeting. “Putin did specifically ask on the call when they last talked.”
Just to refresh your memory, multiple intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia did indeed target the 2016 election with a disinformation campaign; a hack of the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign and subsequent mass-release of their hacked emails via Kremlin-backed Wikileaks; and a targeted social media ‘bot’ operation to spread fake-news and magnify its effects.
That all actually happened.
And while no fire has yet been spotted connecting members of the Trump campaign to that operation – other than candidate Trump and his surrogates actively and gleefully using the hacked material and citing the fake news stories promulgated by the Russian operation in the media and at rallies – there is a ton of smoke. Multiple current and former associates of Trump, including many now helping him govern, have deep financial, political, and business ties to Russian oligarchs and other Kremlin-linked officials.
Do Trump’s associates’ ties to Russia rise to treason? Did the Russian operation to undermine election have help from anyone associated with the Trump campaign? No one knows. That’s why the FBI is investigating. But Trump has fired the guy that was leading the investigation!
And now, the Russians are in the White House to spike the football in the end zone.
Are we great again yet?
Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.