The Trump administration’s tradition of hiding contacts with Kremlin operatives continued as news leaked today of a secret meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov while both senior diplomats were attending the Munich Security Conference yesterday, according to a report on Politico.
If the Russian government hadn’t exposed the meeting through a Facebook post by Lavrov’s spokesperson that included a photo of Pompeo with the Russian Foreign Minister in a hotel hallway, only those who read Russian journalists’ accounts of the meeting would be aware of it since the State Department did not announce that the meeting had taken place until asked about it by journalists.
According to Politico, the translation of the Russian text by Lavrov’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, reveals that:
“Pompeo had said “good luck” to those gathered in the hallway, and cheekily added that those who heard it “gasped” because “there are few to whom Americans now wish something good.”
Claiming that the meeting — which took place in Lavrov’s dedicated meeting room at the hotel where the Security Conference was taking place — was an informal “pull-aside” for which the State Department typically does not provide a “readout” or press summary, Pompeo’s spokesperson refused to provide further details other than denying that they had asked the Kremlin not to leak news of the meeting.
Politico quotes a Russian journalist who — unlike the American press corps covering Pompeo’s trip — had been notified of the meeting in advance and begged to differ about the restrictions asked of them.
“A Russian journalist traveling with Lavrov said the U.S. side had requested that there be no press conference or joint statements and that photographers not even be invited to take a picture of the two top diplomats shaking hands.”
While Secretary Pompeo has been notably hostile to the First Amendment freedoms of the press who covers him of late — banning one NPR reporter from covering his recent trip to Ukraine after a well-publicized angry blowup at a different NPR journalist — the secrecy around the meeting with the Russian foreign minister, combined with Trump’s unprecedentedly undocumented meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his time in office and the legendary pre-election Trump Tower meetings with Kremlin agents, doesn’t inspire much confidence that the discussions in these meetings are free from some hidden nefarious purposes.
The active cloaking of the Trump administration’s contacts with the Russian government — and his refusal to provide Congress and the prosecutors investigating his finances with copies of his tax returns — instead suggest that Congress should reopen the investigations into Trump’s relationship with Russia, how closely his finances are tied to Russian oligarchs, and whether he is putting his own financial interests above the foreign policy interests of the United States.
Trump survived one impeachment attempt due to the complicity of the Republican-controlled Senate. It’s time to find out if he can survive a second attempt.
Original reporting by David M. Herszenhorn at Politico.