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Trump meets with Russian officials in wake of Comey firing

By
Ed Adamczyk and Doug G. Ware
President Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shake hands in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Alexander Shcherbak/TASS
President Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shake hands in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

May 10 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump met Wednesday with two Kremlin officials at the White House, the highest level meet between the two nations since the new administration took office.

Trump and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed various issues during the closed-door meeting -- which the president called "very good" -- including the ongoing terror and civil wars in Syria.

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The meeting had been scheduled for days but came after the abrupt firing Tuesday night of FBI Director James Comey, whose agency is investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. While the Trump administration blamed Comey for mishandling the email investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the bureau chief's departure coincided with the FBI investigation of whether Trump's presidential bid was aided by Russia.

Trump also met with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, the diplomat at the center of the firing of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the recusal from Kremlin investigations by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Petrov was asked Wednesday if Comey's departure could affect relations between the United States and Russia.

"We hope it will not affect them at all," he answered. "That is the United States' internal affair."

Before meeting Trump, Lavrov met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and discussed the Minsk peace accords in Ukraine and plans to de-escalate tensions in Syria.

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Tillerson and Lavrov briefly spoke with the press after their talks, but offered no comment on their topics of discussion. When asked if Comey's firing "cast a shadow" over the meeting, Lavrov looked surprised and answered, "Was he fired?" before telling the reporter in a deadpan voice, "You are kidding. You are kidding."

Trump delivered another surprise at the White House Wednesday, meeting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Trump and former President Richard Nixon's top diplomat met with the press briefly amid Wednesday's activities at the White House. The meeting with Kissinger was not on Trump's official schedule.

"We're talking about Syria and I think that we're going to do very well with respect to Syria and things are happening that are really, really, really positive," Trump said. "We're going to stop the killing and the death."

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