WH: 'No recollection' that Trump met Russian ambassador at event

The White House said there is "no recollection" about who President Trump may have met at an event last year attended by Russia's ambassador to the U.S., but indicated it's a possibility the two men shook hands. 

A May 2016 Wall Street Journal report that the president met at a VIP reception with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. resurfaced Friday. According to the publication, the two were introduced on a receiving line before Trump gave a foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Journal reported at the time that Trump greeted Sergey Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors.


White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday denied that a meeting took place in a statement to the Huffington Post.

“The National Interest hosted Mr. Trump’s foreign policy speech and pre-speech reception. Several ambassadors were present. Mr. Trump was at the reception for about five minutes and then went immediately to the podium,” she said.

“We have no recollection of who he may have shaken hands with at the reception and we were not responsible for inviting or vetting guests. To state a ‘meeting’ took place is disingenuous and extremely misleading.”

Dimitri Simes, the president of the Center for the National Interest, told the Huffington Post that there would not have been an "opportunity" for Trump to talk with Kislyak separately during the event from what he saw.

“From everything I saw, when the receiving line was over, the Secret Service led Mr. Trump to a specially cleared holding area behind the podium where he was supposed to speak,” he said Tuesday.

“There would have been no opportunity for him to talk to Kislyak separately. After the speech was over, Mr. Trump returned to the holding area and then left the hotel without any time or format for a private encounter with anyone. Again, the Secret Service managed his movements.”

Reports surfaced last week that Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE had spoken twice with Kislyak during the campaign, which he did not disclose during his confirmation hearing. He testified under oath during the hearing that he "did not have communications with the Russians." 

Sessions later announced he was recusing himself from any Russia-related investigations into the presidential election, a decision he said he began to discuss with senior Justice Department officials in late February.
Sessions on Monday defended his decision not to mention his previous talks with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing, saying he did not "mention communications I had had with the Russian ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them."
Kislyak also reportedly met with two former foreign policy aides, J.D. Gordon and Carter Page, as well as former national security adviser Michael Flynn and top White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law. 
Previous reports about a phone conversation between Flynn and Kislyak that touched on sanctions against Russia led to Flynn's resignation, after he misled top officials including Vice President Pence about the December call.