The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin turned the tables Sunday by saying that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. also met with people connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, not just Trump advisers.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told CNN “GPS” host Fareed Zakaria that Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak met with “people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary,” The Hill reports.
Peskov stressed that part of Kislyak’s job entails talking to officials and advisers on both sides of the aisle.
“Well, if you look at some people connected with Hillary Clinton during her campaign, you would probably see that he had lots of meetings of that kind,” Peskov said. “There are lots of specialists in politology, people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary.”
Yet, according to Peskov, none of these meetings constituted an attempt to influence the electoral process.
“But there were no meetings about elections — electoral process … So if you look at it with intention to demonize Russia, you would probably say that, yes, he was trying to interfere in Hillary’s activities,” he added. “But it would be nonsense, because this is not true.”
Peskov took pains to state that while Putin did in fact have a preference for Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle, he never was vocal about it, so as to avoid swaying the election.
Peskov’s statements are an attempt to pour cold water on excessive scrutiny regarding connections between Trump advisers and Russian assets and officials.
Kislyak notably had various discussions with Michael Flynn, who has since been forced to resign from the National Security Council, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner, senior aide to Trump. These discussions have been the focus of much media consternation.
Sessions has recused himself from an investigation into connections between Trump and Russia.
J.D. Gordon, a Trump national security adviser, said he met with Kislyak in July during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
“I’d consider it an informal conversation just like my interactions with dozens of other ambassadors and senior diplomats in Cleveland,” Gordon told USA Today.
Carter Page, who served as director of national security for the Trump campaign, also spoke with Kislyak but said the discussions were in no way substantive.
Page left the Trump campaign later in 2016 after criticizing American sanctions against Russia while in Moscow.
Walid Phares, Trump’s Middle East adviser, wrote a blog post for the New English Review last Saturday criticizing the hysteria around these meetings.
Phares first said that contrary to media reports, he had not actually met with Kislyak at all and noted that it was the Obama administration’s State Department “who organized and oversaw the diplomatic engagements at both Conventions.”
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