Little has been revealed in terms of precise statements or any potential diplomatic breakthroughs following Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s closed-door, no press admitted meeting with President Trump on Tuesday.
But the predictable outraged frenzy given the timing didn’t disappoint, with CNN pointing out “the extraordinary spectacle of President Donald Trump consulting with Moscow on the day House Democrats unveiled articles of impeachment underpinned partly by Trump’s unusual relationship with Russia.”
On that note, Lavrov did punch back on the ‘Russiagate’ narrative in general as well as the notion that a mere diplomatic meeting would suggest a ‘compromised’ White House, saying in a joint press conference with Secretary of State Pompeo that his county’s alleged election interference is “baseless” and any level of proof “simply does not exist”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: “We have highlighted once again that all speculation about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the US are baseless. There are no facts that would support that …no one has given us this proof because it simply does not exist” pic.twitter.com/LiUItaj1Ch
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 10, 2019
This after Rep. Adam Schiff slammed the high level meeting as “a success of the Russian propaganda” while lamenting that supposedly “adversaries” were “invited in” but with “allies locked out.”
Trump is meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister in the Oval Office — again.
Adversaries invited in. Allies locked out.
Last time, they laughed about Trump’s firing of Comey. Today, they can celebrate the success of Russian propaganda.
Reagan wouldn’t recognize this GOP. pic.twitter.com/iHiksPXMbM
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 10, 2019
“There was no press at our meeting, American or Russian. If Schiff can describe the ministerial-level contacts normal to any country and my meeting with the president in such a way, then I believe that they will soon accuse our diplomats, just as they have our athletes, of doping and call for criminal punishment,” Lavrov said mockingly.
In a tweet President Trump said he had a “very good” meeting with the top Russian diplomat and listed items discussed as including trade, Iran, North Korea, the INF Treaty, Nuclear Arms Control, and election meddling (on this last topic, Lavrov denied receiving a “warning” from Trump regarding interference).
Just had a very good meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and representatives of Russia. Discussed many items including Trade, Iran, North Korea, INF Treaty, Nuclear Arms Control, and Election Meddling. Look forward to continuing our dialogue in the near future! pic.twitter.com/tHecH9a9ck
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2019
A White House statement indicated the potential for greater trade with Russia was also a focus on the meeting.
Speaking of trade and ongoing sanctions Lavrov boasted before reporters that trade between the two countries has actually grown during the Trump administration.
“Regardless of the sanctions – which obviously hurt everyone – the trade between our two countries has grown during the Trump presidency from $20 billion, to which it was reduced under President Obama, to $27 billion this year,” Lavrov said.
A further highlight of the late Tuesday press conference came when one reporter sought to “trap” the Russian foreign minister by asking whether he had again received any classified information during this Oval visit, based on prior allegations from their initial May 2017 meeting.
“I can only find that out based on what you report,” Lavrov replied, and then appeared to again mock the assumptions behind the question:
“We talked about what I openly and literally told you. If you find some secrets there, feel free to make that sensational.”
Also of note is that Lavrov said he again extended a personal invitation from Putin to Trump to be in attendance for Moscow’s Victory Day celebrations in May. The president is said to be “considering it”.