(Trump holds a meeting in the White House with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Cabinet Members via Getty Images.)
On Monday, the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. issued a statement that he had met with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to discuss “the current state and future prospects of the arrangements reached by Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump reached in Helsinki.”
According to the statement, Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov reconfirmed Russia’s intention “to continue joint work on stabilization of bilateral relations.” Antonov also expressed a desire to “maintain a regular and direct dialogue” between the Russian Embassy and the Trump administration. I’ll bet.
This is yet another example of a key member of the Trump administration meeting with Russian representatives with no real explanation to the press or the American public from the White House. The Department of the Treasury issued this statement only:
“Today, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin met with Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States Anatoly Antonov. They discussed compliance with sanctions programs, Venezuelan economic conditions, and the potential for trade and investment. Secretary Mnuchin emphasized the importance of orderly energy markets.”
That was it. There was no transcript of the meeting given to the public, no session with press to ask follow up questions — nothing more was offered. I guess we’re all supposed to be so coronavirus and stock market freaked that all Mnuchin’s office has to do to fly under the radar with a meeting with Russia is use the word “oil.”
This seems to be part of a bigger pattern of concealment by the Trump administration in withholding critical information from the American public, especially when it comes to Russia. In February, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the Munich Security Conference. That meeting was kept mostly under wraps by the State Department and no announcement of the meeting was ever made to the press.
(Photo of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (in doorway) in a hallway of the Hotel Bayerischer Hof during the Munich Security Conference during the time when they had their secret meeting via Zakharova Facebook post.)
Compare that to the Russian side where journalists who were traveling with Lavrov were made aware of the meeting in advance and were given permission to write about it afterward. Russia was able and allowed to take full advantage of the opportunity to promote the event in the Russian press, while the U.S. press was kept in the dark.
Additionally, the State Department would only describe the event as a “pull-aside,” and refused to give any further details about the meeting and went on to say that transcripts would not be made available because it was not protocol to do so for brief meetings of this nature.
Ultimately, Trump administration officials keep having these secret meetings with Russia even after Donald Trump was impeached for abusing his power with Ukraine by attempting to compel political favors. Given what we know about previous Russian interference in the 2016 election and the fact that Trump will again be needing Putin’s help leading up to November, it is not a far stretch to say that he may be attempting to gain political advantage again.
(Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin with Dr. Anthony Fauci and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar as Vice President Pence speaks alongside members of the Coronavirus Task Force in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, March 9, 2020. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images.)
We aren’t being given the details of these meetings and no press conferences are being held daily at the White House so that reporters can ask about the details. It is clear that the Trump administration is attempting to obfuscate the full extent of its relationship with Russia. If there was truly nothing to hide, there would be an announcement of these meetings well ahead of time with a public statement and possible press conference afterward. At the very least, there should be a transcript released to the American people — a full transcript, not a partial memo that Trump has labeled “a transcript.”
The bottom line is that we know Putin helped Trump the first time — Trump asked him to do it in broad daylight in front of the cameras. We also know that Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress in investigating the Ukrainian quid pro quo. Is it really that far off to think that Trump is now sending in people like Pompeo and Mnuchin, men who have proven their loyalty to Dear Leader, to continue to barter with Russia for Putin’s assistance in 2020? I think not.
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Amee Vanderpool writes the “Shero” Newsletter and is an attorney, contributor to magazines and newspapers and an analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.