Story Analyzer Dashboard

  Russian Government Links to and Contacts with the Trump Campaign

      A. Campaign Period (September 2015 - November 8, 2016) - 6. Events at the Republican National Convention and 7. Post-Convention Contacts with Kislyak

6. Events at the Republican National Convention

Trump Campaign officials met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the week of the Republican National Convention.
The evidence indicates that those interactions were brief and non-substantive. During platform committee meetings immediately before the Convention, J.D. Gordon, a senior Campaign advisor on policy and national security, diluted a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform expressing support for providing" lethal'' assistance to Ukraine in response to Russian aggression. Gordon requested that platform committee personnel revise the proposed amendment to state that only" appropriate'' assistance be provided to Ukraine. The original of the" lethal'' assistance amendment stated that Gordon told her( the ) that he was on the phone with candidate Trump in connection with his request to dilute the language. Gordon denied making that statement to the , although he acknowledged it was possible he mentioned having previously spoken to the candidate about the subject matter. The investigation did not establish that Gordon spoke to or was directed by the candidate to make that proposal. Gordon said that he sought the change because he believed the proposed language was inconsistent with Trump 's position on Ukraine.

a. Ambassador Kislyak 's Encounters with Senator Sessions and J.D. Gordon the Week of the RNC

In July 2016, Senator Sessions and Gordon spoke at the Global Partners in Diplomacy event, a conference co-sponsored by the State Department and the Heritage Foundation held in Cleveland, Ohio the same week as the Republican National Convention( RNC or" Convention'').
Approximately 80 foreign ambassadors to the United States, including Kislyak, were invited to the conference.

On July 20, 2016, Gordon and Sessions delivered their speeches at the conference.
In his speech, Gordon stated in pertinent part that the United States should have better relations with Russia. During Sessions 's speech, he took questions from the audience, one of which may have been asked by Kislyak. When the speeches concluded, several ambassadors lined up to greet the speakers. Gordon shook hands with Kislyak and reiterated that he had meant what he said in the speech about improving U.S.-Russia relations. Sessions separately spoke with between six and 12 ambassadors, including Kislyak. Although Sessions stated during interviews with the Office that he had no specific recollection of what he discussed with Kislyak, he believed that the two spoke for only a few minutes and that they would have exchanged pleasantries and said some things about U.S.-Russia relations.

Later that evening, Gordon attended a reception as part of the conference.
Gordon ran into Kislyak as the two prepared plates of food, and they decided to sit at the same table to eat. They were joined at that table by the ambassadors from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and by Trump Campaign advisor Carter Page. As they ate, Gordon and Kislyak talked for what Gordon estimated to have been three to five minutes, during which Gordon again mentioned that he meant what he said in his speech about improving U.S.-Russia relations.

b. Change to Republican Party Platform

In preparation for the 2016 Convention, foreign policy advisors to the Trump Campaign, working with the Republican National Committee, reviewed the 2012 Convention 's foreign policy platform to identify divergence between the earlier platform and candidate Trump 's positions.
The Campaign team discussed toning down language from the 2012 platform that identified Russia as the country 's number one threat, given the candidate 's belief that there needed to be better U.S. relations with Russia. The RNC Platform Committee sent the 2016 draft platform to the National Security and Defense Platform Subcommittee on July 10, 2016, the evening before its first meeting to propose amendments.

Although only delegates could participate in formal discussions and vote on the platform, the Trump Campaign could request changes, and members of the Trump Campaign attended committee meetings.
John Mashburn, the Campaign 's policy director, helped oversee the Campaign 's involvement in the platform committee meetings. He told the Office that he directed Campaign staff at the Convention, including J.D. Gordon, to take a hands-off approach and only to challenge platform planks if they directly contradicted Trump 's wishes.

On July 11, 2016, delegate Diana Denman submitted a proposed platform amendment that included provision of armed support for Ukraine.
The amendment described Russia 's" ongoing military aggression'' in Ukraine and announced" support'' for" maintaining( and, if warranted, increasing) sanctions against Russia until Ukraine 's sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored'' and for" providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine 's armed forces and greater coordination with NA TO on defense planning.'' Gordon reviewed the proposed platform changes, including Denman 's. Gordon stated that he flagged this amendment because of Trump 's stated position on Ukraine, which Gordon personally heard the candidate say at the March 31 foreign policy meeting-namely, that the Europeans should take primary responsibility for any assistance to Ukraine, that there should be improved U.S.-Russia relations, and that he did not want to start World War III over that region. Gordon told the Office that Trump 's statements on the campaign trail following the March meeting underscored those positions to the point where Gordon felt obliged to object to the proposed platform change and seek its dilution.

On July 11, 2016, at a meeting of the National Security and Defense Platform Subcommittee, Denman offered her amendment.
Gordon and another Campaign staffer, Matt Miller, approached a committee co-chair and asked him to table the amendment to permit further discussion. Gordon 's concern with the amendment was the language about providing" lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.'' Miller did not have any independent basis to believe that this language contradicted Trump 's views and relied on Gordon 's recollection of the candidate 's views.

According to Denman, she spoke with Gordon and Matt Miller, and they told her that they had to clear the language and that Gordon was" talking to New York.''
Denman told others that she was asked by the two Trump Campaign staffers to strike" lethal defense weapons'' from the proposal but that she refused. Denman recalled Gordon saying that he was on the phone with candidate Trump, but she was skeptical whether that was true. Gordon denied having told Denman that he was on the phone with Trump, although he acknowledged it was possible that he mentioned having previously spoken to the candidate about the subject matter. Gordon 's phone records reveal a call to Sessions 's office in Washington that afternoon, but do not include calls directly to a number associated with Trump. And according to the President 's written answers to the Office 's questions, he does not recall being involved in the change in language of the platform amendment.

Gordon stated that he tried to reach Rick Dearborn, a senior foreign policy advisor, and Mashburn, the Campaign policy director.
Gordon stated that he connected with both of them( he could not recall if by phone or in person) and apprised them of the language he took issue with in the proposed amendment. Gordon recalled no objection by either Dearborn or Mashburn and that all three Campaign advisors supported the alternative formulation(" appropriate assistance''). Dearborn recalled Gordon warning them about the amendment, but not weighing in because Gordon was more familiar with the Campaign 's foreign policy stance. Mashburn stated that Gordon reached him, and he told Gordon that Trump had not taken a stance on the issue and that the Campaign should not intervene.

When the amendment came up again in the committee 's proceedings, the subcommittee changed the amendment by striking the" lethal defense weapons'' language and replacing it with" appropriate assistance.''
Gordon stated that he and the subcommittee co-chair ultimately agreed to replace the language about armed assistance with" appropriate assistance.'' The subcommittee accordingly approved Denman 's amendment but with the term" appropriate assistance.'' Gordon stated that, to his recollection, this was the only change sought by the Campaign. Sam Clovis, the Campaign 's national co-chair and chief policy advisor, stated he was surprised by the change and did not believe it was in line with Trump 's stance. Mashburn stated that when he saw the word" appropriate assistance,'' he believed that Gordon had violated Mashburn 's directive not to intervene.

Post-Convention Contacts with Kislyak

Ambassador Kislyak continued his efforts to interact with Campaign officials with responsibility for the foreign-policy portfolio-among them Sessions and Gordon-in the weeks after the Convention.
The Office did not identify evidence in those interactions of coordination between the Campaign and the Russian government.

a. Ambassador Kislyak Invites J.D. Gordon to Breakfast at the Ambassador 's Residence

On August 3, 2016, an official from the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the United States wrote to Gordon''[ o] n behalf of' Ambassador Kislyak inviting Gordon" to have breakfast/tea with the Ambassador at his residence'' in Washington, D.C. the following week.
Gordon responded five days later to decline the invitation. He wrote,''[ t] hese days are not optimal for us, as we are busily knocking down a constant stream of false media stories while also preparing for the first debate with HRC. Hope to take a raincheck for another time when things quiet down a bit. Please pass along my regards to the Ambassador.'' The investigation did not identify evidence that Gordon made any other arrangements to meet( or met) with Kislyak after this email.

b. Senator Sessions 's September 2016 Meeting with Ambassador Kislyak

Also in August 2016, a representative of the Russian Embassy contacted Sessions ' s Senate office about setting up a meeting with Kislyak.
At the time, Sessions was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and would meet with foreign officials in that capacity. But Sessions 's staff reported, and Sessions himself acknowledged, that meeting requests from ambassadors increased substantially in 2016, as Sessions assumed a prominent role in the Trump Campaign and his name was mentioned for potential cabinet-level positions in a future Trump Administration.

On September 8, 2016, Sessions met with Kislyak in his Senate office.
Sessions said that he believed he was doing the Campaign a service by meeting with foreign ambassadors, including Kislyak. He was accompanied in the meeting by at least two of his Senate staff: Sandra Luff, his legislative director; and Pete Landrum, who handled military affairs. The meeting lasted less than 30 minutes. Sessions voiced concerns about Russia 's sale of a missile defense system to Iran, Russian planes buzzing U.S. military assets in the Middle East, and Russian aggression in emerging democracies such as Ukraine and Moldova. Kislyak offered explanations on these issues and complained about NA TO land forces in former Soviet-bloc countries that border Russia. Landrum recalled that Kislyak referred to the presidential campaign as" an interesting campaign,'' and Sessions also recalled Kislyak saying that the Russian government was receptive to the overtures Trump had laid out during his campaign. None of the attendees, though, remembered any discussion of Russian election interference or any request that Sessions convey information from the Russian government to the Trump Campaign.

During the meeting, Kislyak invited Sessions to further discuss U.S.-Russia relations with him over a meal at the ambassador 's residence.
Sessions was non-committal when Kislyak extended the invitation. After the meeting ended, Luff advised Sessions against accepting the one-on-one meeting with Kislyak, whom she assessed to be an" old school KGB guy.'' Neither Luff nor Landrum recalled that Sessions followed up on the invitation or made any further effort to dine or meet with Kislyak before the November 2016 election. Sessions and Landrum recalled that, after the election, some efforts were made to arrange a meeting between Sessions and Kislyak. According to Sessions, the request came through CNI and would have involved a meeting between Sessions and Kislyak, two other ambassadors, and the Governor of Alabama. Sessions, however, was in New York on the day of the anticipated meeting and was unable to attend. The investigation did not identify evidence that the two men met at any point after their September 8 meeting.
Highlighted Information
Narrative Web
Times Cloud
Places Cloud
Subjects Cloud
Actions Cloud
Objects Cloud
Contexts Cloud