At the center of many allegations swirling around the Trump administration’s relationship with Moscow is one man: Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. As U.S. intelligence agencies contend that his country attempted, through hacking and other efforts, to influence November’s election, Kislyak’s discussions with Trump campaign associates — including former national security adviser Michael Flynn (who resigned for not disclosing them) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who did not) — have been the subject of intense reporting and speculation.
While it is one thing to question Russia’s efforts or the truthfulness of American officials, this debate is threatening the time-honored tradition of foreign ambassadors freely meeting political figures in their country of accreditation. There is nothing inherently wrong with meeting a foreign ambassador — even one from a rival nation; even one from a rival superpower on which the United States has imposed sanctions. As Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, I saw firsthand, in the assassination of Osama bin Laden, just how essential such consultations were.
We don’t know what Kislyak’s particular motivations were or what he discussed in these meetings, but the question before the American public is whether Trump’s allies comported themselves honorably and legally, not whether Kislyak did.