Just hours after CNN reported that the White House restricted access to the accounts of phone conversations Donald Trump had with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Vladimir Putin, the Washington Post released yet another disconcerting bit of incremental news.
During the infamous May 2017 Oval Office meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, Trump told the Kremlin’s top diplomat and the Russian ambassador that the White House was unconcerned with Moscow’s meddling in US elections.
That’s according to a trio of former administration officials.
The jovial pow wow with Lavrov and Kislyak came less than a full day after Trump fired James Comey, and served to aggravate an already tense situation within the US intelligence and law enforcement community.
The meeting between the three men produced a series of disconcerting visuals, including this one:
(Russian Foreign Ministry Photo)
You’re reminded that Lavrov lampooned Comey’s firing in a presser with Rex Tillerson just before the picture shown above was taken. Later, reports suggested Trump shared classified intelligence with the Russians- unprompted, no less.
Around that time, the FBI opened an investigation into whether Trump was in fact working for the Kremlin.
According to WaPo’s reporting, Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that election interference on the part of the Kremlin didn’t concern him “because the United States did the same in other countries”. That, the three sources who spoke to WaPo said, “prompted White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people”.
This of course comes amid intense scrutiny into the White House’s handling of the accounts of Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders and officials. The administration’s efforts to sequester documentation of the president’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart is at the heart of the whistle-blower complaint which now forms the basis of an impeachment inquiry.
It’s worth noting that Trump’s alleged election comments to Lavrov and Kislyak are entirely consistent with his habit of defending his own behavior and that of authoritarians around the globe by employing a perverse version of “Whataboutism”, whereby he cites transgressions (both real and imagined) committed by America and American citizens to justify the misdeeds of dictators.
One official who spoke to WaPo cited Trump’s “moral equivalency” streak, noting that the president once downplayed Putin’s habit of disappearing journalists and dissidents by saying “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”