I know it’s been approximately ten years since last week, but surely you remember when President Donald Trump met with Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, just a day after he unceremoniously fired James Comey, a man who was heading the investigation into whether or not Russia colluded with the Trump administration to fuck with the election and rig it for his win. Now we know how that meeting came about, and my friends, it’s something else.
The Washington Post reports that Trump’s meeting with Lavrov was at the request of one Vladimir Putin, who called Trump eight days before the foreign minster’s arrival because Lavrov had “new ideas” about the situation in Syria. Lavrov had been planning on stopping by the United States to meet with oil man turned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but their meeting was scheduled some 4,000 miles away in Fairbanks, Alaska. Regardless, Trump agreed and Lavrov was redirected to Washington.
The Post is quick to point out that by agreeing to meet with Lavrov, Trump’s advisers insist that he did nothing wrong. They also acknowledge that by Putin asking Trump to meet with Lavrov, his “hand might have been forced.”
After Putin received Tillerson in Moscow last month — meeting privately with the secretary of state for two hours at the Kremlin — the United States owed reciprocity to Russia in the form of an audience with Trump for Tillerson’s Russian counterpart, Lavrov. Rejecting Putin’s request for a Trump-Lavrov meeting would have represented a breach in diplomatic tradition.
Okay, great. Diplomatic tradition is one thing, but Putin’s tissue-thin excuse that Lavrov wanted to talk about new ideas in Syria is quite another. Please recall that Russia supports Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and the United States does not. Please also allow yourself to feel a tiny bit of alarm — just a little, not too much, really — that Putin asked Trump to meet Lavrov and Trump rolled over and agreed. Please also recall that the United States is currently investigating Russia’s involvement in the election. All of these things are fun things to consider when you know a little more about this meeting. Also “fun” is this observation, emphasis ours.
The date was set before Trump knew he would be firing James B. Comey as FBI director on the afternoon of May 9. The president’s advisers knew the optics would be bad politically, one of them said, but calculated that the fallout would be just as bad if Trump abruptly canceled on Lavrov, so he kept the appointment.
Cancelling the meeting with Lavrov would’ve been a wise move, don’t you think, especially in light of the fact that during that meeting, Trump shared highly classified intel about ISIS with Lavrov that could have a lot of terrible repercussions. Maybe had Trump been briefed prior to his meeting with Lavrov, he would’ve known not to open his mouth.
In advance of the meeting, Trump was given briefing materials along with a cover memorandum highlighting the points his national security staff wanted him to raise with Lavrov. Normally, McMaster briefs Trump immediately before a foreign leader meeting, but the senior administration official did not know if he did so the morning of Lavrov’s visit.
Even if he was briefed, what’s the likelihood that he retained any of the information he was supposed to say? Trump has yet to grasp the gravity of the role he has somehow assumed and continues to treat the role of president as that of a blustering, pompous C.E.O. Later, when asked about James Comey’s firing, Lavrov essentially laughed in the face of the reporters asking before walking away. Photos released by Russian state-owned news agency Tass showed Trump and Lavrov back-slapping and guffawing like old friends.
“All of those photos that the Russians released of them all standing around laughing — this is the country that just violated our sovereignty, just interfered in our presidential election,” said Michael McFaul, a U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama. “It sends a signal, unfortunately, that Trump doesn’t care about that.”
For what it’s worth, the conversation did also include Syria and Ukraine, in addition to the intel Trump blabbed to Lavrov. Still, we essentially got played by Vladimir Putin, the man who is president of the country being investigated for collusion to influence the election and get Trump in the Oval Office. What else is there? What else needs to happen? How much longer is this going to go on?