Nancy Pelosi awkwardly stuttered after she was asked point blank on Friday, “Have you ever met with the Russian ambassador?”
The Minority Leader was also asked if it’s normal to meet with ambassadors. The look on her face is priceless!
But a file photo from Pelosi’s 2010 meeting with Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev shows Kislyak at the table across from Pelosi — then House speaker — and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Medvedev had been in the country for a meeting with President Barack Obama a day earlier and stopped in on Capitol Hill to meet with congressional leaders as well.
Asked to square Pelosi’s comments with the photo of the meeting, a spokesman said Pelosi simply meant she never had a solo meeting with Kislyak.
“Of course, that’s what she meant,” said the spokesman, Drew Hammill. “She has never had a private one-on-one with him.”
After Trump needled Pelosi on Twitter about the matter, Pelosi hit back with her own tweet and another statement from her spokesman.
“Leader Pelosi’s answer to the question today was clearly about private, one-on-one meetings, which she has never had with Ambassador Kislyak,” Hammill said. “The Ambassador was incidental to the 2010 meeting between then-Russian President Medvedev and then-Speaker Pelosi. Clearly, one needs to remind Politico that Attorney General Sessions lied under oath about a secret meeting amidst Russia’s hacking of our election, which he also didn’t disclose in a written questionnaire.”
Also visible in the picture is Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry. And a Democratic source noted that alongside Pelosi — but obscured in the picture — is former House GOP leader Eric Cantor.
No one on either side of the aisle has suggested it’s improper for lawmakers to meet with foreign diplomats. Rather, Democrats have slammed Sessions for failing to disclose those contacts, and the fact that he apparently had private meetings with the Russian envoy. Those meetings came at a time Russia was increasingly believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Pelosi’s explanation is similar to one offered by Sen. Claire McCaskill Thursday, after she swiped at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for privately meeting with Kislyak in 2016 and failing to disclose it when asked about communications with Russians during his confirmation proceedings in January. Sessions has emphasized that meetings with ambassadors are common for lawmakers and that he met with Kislyak in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, tweeted that in her 10 years on the Armed Services Committee, she had received “No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever.”
But after confronted with a pair of her own tweets from 2013 and 2015 in which she described a meeting and call with Kislyak, McCaskill walked back her comment.
“The Russian ambassador never called me. The Russian ambassador has never asked for a meeting with me,” McCaskill told reporters, adding, “you cannot say that having a one-on-one meeting with the Russian ambassador was a common thing to occur.”