Sunday, 12 March 2017
by John Hajjar and Hossein Khorram
As unfair partisan attacks have been targeting current and former advisors to the Trump Administration and Presidential campaign, and as some journalists have resorted to lies and misrepresentations of the facts regarding so-called meetings between senior Trump officials and Russian government representatives during the campaign, we have decided to testify regarding at least two charges made by some in the press. To the best of our knowledge, the meetings that then candidate Trump’s advisors and surrogates held with foreign diplomats were designed and conducted in order to listen to the diplomats’ concerns. Trump advisors and surrogates made no promises of any kind on behalf of candidate Trump in any meeting where we were present.
The first unwarranted charge is that Attorney General, then Senator, Jeff Sessions held a meeting with the Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, following a panel discussion at a Republican National Convention side event in July 2016. And second, that then candidate, now President, Trump held a meeting with the Russian ambassador before Trump’s first foreign policy speech held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC. We can truthfully testify as to what we saw at both events.
On April 27, 2016, I, John Hajjar, was present as a Middle East American surrogate for the Trump campaign along with my colleague, Tom Harb, at then candidate Trump’s foreign policy speech, organized by the Center for National Interest. The surrogates as well as the national security and foreign policy advisors were seated a few rows behind the senior candidate advisors, former US officials, diplomats and VIPs who were seated by the National Interest in the front rows in deference to their status. Behind us, in multiple rows, were many political figures, NGOs leaders and senior members of the campaign. And behind this audience, the media representatives and multiple crews from around the world. The coordinator of the seating for advisors and surrogates was an administrative aide to Senator Sessions' national security board, JD Gordon. After the speech was over, advisors and surrogates spent more than an hour speaking to the press. The candidate and officials had left the auditorium immediately after the event was over. We did not see Senator Sessions “meeting” with any ambassadors, including the Russian ambassador. We actually didn't know the latter was at the meeting; we learned about it later from the media. There was no area in that auditorium which allowed for a private meeting. The room was filled with the cameras of dozens of reporters. The contention cited by some media, that Sessions met with Kislyak there, is simply not credible. (Please see the statement by The National Interest on this event.)
In July, we (John Hajjar, co-chair of the Middle East American Coalition for Trump (AMCT) and Hossein Khorram, Delegate to the Republican National Convention and a member of the AMCT), attended the day-long event at Case Western University in Cleveland along with a number of our community leaders. We were seated near Trump advisors including Joseph Schmidt, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Admiral Bert Mizusawa, Dr. Walid Phares, and Sessions’ campaign national security aide, JD Gordon. This event was also attended by dozens of ambassadors, diplomats, campaign leaders, The Heritage Foundation, NGOs, media representatives, as well as guest speakers and Obama State Department officials. There were two panels and one key note speaker, Senator Sessions. He spoke to the audience, then mingled and shook hands on his way out. Many had taken their pictures with him before he left the event. We did not see him “meet” with the Russian ambassador at that event either. As was the case at the Mayflower, again there were no spaces visible for private meetings. He came in and he went out. Period.
What some in the media have described as “meetings between Sessions and the Russian ambassador” during the Cleveland and National Interest events is utter fabrication. It never happened, as far as we saw on the ground.
But the issue is much more ominous than this empty charge. The opposition has also been going after Attorney General Sessions and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner for meeting with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and after the election. Why would such meetings - if they happened - be inappropriate? The US Government didn't shut down the Russian embassy in Washington, even though the Obama Administration has leveled sanctions on a number of Russian officials in response to the invasion of Crimea. Secretary Kerry met with the Russians non-stop throughout 2016 – as it is his job to do so. Members of Congress routinely meet with Russian diplomats to talk about world politics. NGOs meet Russian officials to lodge demands for their causes. Democrats and Republicans alike meet with ambassadors from all countries which have diplomatic relations with the United States. The US military coordinates its moves with the Russians on the ground in Syria and in other places. US diplomats and businessmen roam Moscow and meet Russians.
Meetings between diplomats and candidates and their representatives during an election year usually increases as the elections approach, as foreign countries seek more and more information on the potential winner of these crucial contests. There is nothing wrong with campaign leaders and officials meeting diplomats, including Russians, despite disagreements on international affairs. Donald Trump and his advisors, as well as Hilary Clinton and her advisors have the right and responsibility to meet diplomats during the campaign. This is the American way.
As to the ridiculous charge that somehow Trump campaign officials plotted with the Russian Government in a cyber-attack against the Democratic Party to defeat Hillary Clinton, this has been debunked by all the authorities in national intelligence and is an insult to US national politics. It belongs to the Third World culture of conspiracies and to the deep layers of internet hallucinations. Not only is there no evidence to it, but the narrative used by media surrogates in their ongoing attack on Trump officials for meeting with diplomats, is itself the product of reporters with seemingly have no idea of how the world of diplomacy actually works.
Assuming for one minute that such scenario is to be considered, why on earth would Russia send an ambassador - the most monitored diplomat in the US - to a public event, during the election season, to openly meet official personalities in order to discuss such nefarious goals? Journalists and bloggers who have engaged in such a smear of the Trump campaign and administration have lost credibility and harmed US political culture. The cyber-attack against the Democratic Party - or any Party - is an attack against all Americans. It must be investigated and its authors exposed, but these gratuitous swipes at the Trump camp must be severely condemned as well. We have a justice system which will go after the aggression coming from overseas against the Clinton campaign, and will also go after any illegal activities against the Trump campaign.
We were there during the RNC event and the Mayflower speech and witnessed no such conspiracies, only honorable men and women who were practicing their right to support and vote for a President, which they did.
It is time to respect the will of the American people
John Hajjar is co-chair of the American Mideast Coalition for Trump.
Hossein Khorram was a Washington State At Large Delegate to RNC and is a member of the American Mideast Coalition for Trump.
Posted on 03/12/2017 12:32 PM by John Hajjar and Hossein Khorram
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