By Payton Isner, Contributor
Since his first day in office as president, Donald Trump has faced bitter retaliation for his seemingly cozy relationship with the Russian government — specifically, when two top Trump officials, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign.
Flynn, who resigned just a few weeks after assuming his new post as National Security advisor, took the first major hit of the administration. Trump was down one of his top advisors before Flynn’s first 30 days had even been completed. Flynn was forced to resign after he lied to Vice President Pence and denied meeting with the Russian ambassador. His scandal then threatened to bog down the administration’s agenda with hearings and scandal before it ever really got started.
Then there’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Having met with the Russian ambassador twice during the 2016 campaign, he testified during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for attorney general that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” He was then forced to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election after that was discovered to be a falsehood.
The seemingly continued interference of Russia in the U.S. elections is unnerving, and every American has a right to be critical, but who cares if Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions met with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign? That’s what politicians do. It would be irresponsible for the Trump campaign to not be prepared to deal with one of the world’s most powerful nations if he were in fact to win the presidency. On top of that, it’s critical to meet with ambassadors if one wants to turn foreign policy visions into a reality, which ideally President Trump would want to accomplish.
Here are the facts: Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reached out and met with top advisors of the Clinton campaign as well. Most likely, he also met with key officials in the Obama White House, since the Obama administration would take similar stances with the Clinton campaign on Russian foreign policy and aid in the transition efforts. Russia has a vested interest in securing a good relationship with whatever administration takes office, just as the United States would in any other country when a new leader takes office.
Attacking the Trump presidency over the fact that top advisors met with the ambassador of a suspect nation on the cusp of a potential election scandal is an easy hit, but it lacks perspective. President Trump came into the Presidency with a plan to shake up Washington and “put America first.” If he’s going to keep those campaign promises, he’s going to have to deal with the Russians at some point.
The sooner President Trump established a relationship between his administration and the Russians, the better. He could deal and negotiate critical terms like the Syrian Civil War, the situation with North Korea’s missile program and even Russian sanctions put into place by the Obama administration, doing all of this more efficiently and from a more educated standpoint. Why would anyone want the president of the United States to walk into the office unprepared to deal with the world’s second most powerful nation?
In examining President Trump’s ties with the Russians, it’s fair to be critical and investigative. The possibility of Russian meddling is disturbing, and it should be examined as closely as possible. However, attacking key administration officials for communicating with the ambassador of Russia is a bit of a stretch. Who cares if Trump’s National Security advisor and attorney general met with the Russian ambassador? It is not only critical, but necessary, for the president to communicate with such a key player in global politics.