One day after President Donald Trump’s termination of FBI Director James Comey reinvigorated concerns about his ties to Russia, the president met with top officials from Russia.
The meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to the White House, was ostensibly about Syria, North Korea, ISIS, and Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, as well as Trump’s hopes to build better ties with Russia to help combat terrorism around the globe.
But the timing is awful.
The Trump administration argues that it fired Comey for his poor handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server — a hot-button political issue that Comey repeatedly made public statements about even as the FBI uncovered no criminal wrongdoing, drawing criticisms from Democrats that he was getting unduly involved in a political issue.
Critics of Comey’s dismissal, however, argue that the president was really trying to clamp down on the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The Trump campaign has been accused of colluding with Russian officials to win the 2016 election. Russian hackers are widely believed to be behind the release of a trove of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign that painted Trump’s 2016 opponent in a negative light.
Comey, as head of the FBI, was in charge of overseeing the agency’s investigation into all of this.
There’s further reason to believe that the Trump administration may have been acting in its own interest in firing Comey. A bombshell New York Times report, for example, found that Comey had asked the Justice Department for more resources to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia just days before he was fired. That’s not definitive proof, but it’s certainly suggestive.
Did Trump’s meeting with Russian officials touch on any of this? We don’t know, because US press weren’t allowed in. So far, the only pictures of the event were published through Russian state media.
Regardless, the timing doesn’t look good for Trump.