Oval Office meeting with Russian officials raises eyebrows

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 12, 2017

A day after President Donald Trump unceremoniously fired FBI Director James Comey, he hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House. "Americans are learning about what Trump is doing with Russian Federation from Russia, not from the White House", observed Axios news.

This was despite the fact the White House meant to not allow photographers from media companies into the Oval Office for that meeting.

After Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited President Donald Trump while he was in town this week, Lavrov announced Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July.

Trump described his talks with Lavrov as "very, very good". While the Trump administration blamed Comey for mishandling the emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Comey's departure coincided with the FBI investigation of whether Trump's presidential bid was aided by Russian Federation.

"Was he fired?" Lavrov questioned. "If only there was some way for us to see what was on the president's mind in real time last week", Tapper quipped.

Asked if the firing would cast a shadow over his talks, Lavrov replied: "Was he fired?"

Peppered with questions on Comey's firing during his brief media interaction at the State Department, Lavrov joked around. The attempt at a reset didn't work and relations between the United States and Russian Federation at the end of the Obama administration plunged to Cold War-era lows.

The White House blocked United States reporters from photographing the meeting, opting to allow only White House and Russian photographers to capture images of Trump's interactions with Lavrov. The meeting was reported to be private, but photographers from the state-run TASS of Russian Federation were there.

The US and Russian Federation will continue working together on various issues, including the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, Lavrov noted, adding they aim to remove all barriers hindering efficient cooperation.

Lavrov said that despite difficulties "our countries can and should contribute jointly to the settlement of the most urgent issues in global affairs".

Mr Lavrov said the pair had not discussed sanctions against Russian Federation.

Mr Trump expressed his interest in pursuing "business-like relations" with Russian Federation, according to Mr Lavrov. The US President called the meeting "very good" and when asked whether the Comey dismissal affected the meeting, he said "not at all".

Update, May 10, 2017: Right on cue, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer caught up with Putin, wearing full hockey regalia, in Sochi, and asked him what impact Comey's firing would have on U.S. -Russia relations.

The American media, however, never caught a glimpse of either Russian inside the White House.

Trump and Putin also spoke by phone last week about the war in Syria for the first time since Trump ordered a missile strike against a Syrian government air base last month after an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime.

Michael Flynn's failure to disclose meetings with Kislyak eventually led to his departure as national security advisor and made the Russian diplomat a virtual household name.

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