President Donald Trump could meet with Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat at the White House on Wednesday, a US official and a person with knowledge of the plans said, describing what would be the highest level, face-to-face contact with Russia of the American leader’s young presidency. It would also signal that the two countries have improved ties that Trump recently described as being at an “all-time low.”
Trump’s talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would occur after the Russian’s meetings earlier in the day with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the official and the other person told The Associated Press.
They weren’t authorised to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
The White House declined a request for confirmation.
A Russian plan to stabilise Syria after more than six years of civil war is the most urgent foreign policy topic on the agenda. But the meeting will be impossible to separate from the Trump administration’s unfolding political drama in Washington, where an FBI and congressional investigations are looking into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin related to last year’s presidential election. US intelligence agencies accuse Moscow of meddling to help Trump’s chances of victory.
The taint of Russia probes has been impossible for Trump to shake.
Less than a month into Trump’s presidency, he fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying Flynn misled senior administration officials about his pre-inauguration talks with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador in Washington.
In a Senate hearing Monday, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said she bluntly warned Trump’s White House in January that Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed” by the Russians because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Kislyak.
Trump has said he has no ties to Russia and isn’t aware of any involvement by his aides in any Russian election interference. He calls the various investigations a “hoax” driven by Democrats still bitter that their candidate, Hillary Clinton, was defeated last year.