Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s former ambassador to the US, on Wednesday berated CNN for its reporting on the ongoing controversy over whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow in 2016.
Kislyak, a figure the US intelligence community who is widely believed to be a Russian spy, denied that he had tried to recruit individuals close to Trump when he worked in Washington.
“You should be ashamed, because CNN is the company that keeps pointing to this allegation,” Kislyak said during an interview with the network. “It’s nonsense.”
Kislyak also pointed to former FBI Director James Comey’s statements to push back against the allegations.
“I’ve heard that other statements by them, also by [the] former head of the FBI that said I was a diplomat,” Kislyak said. “I have no — no reasons to doubt that he knew what he said.”
The former ambassador also addressed the bill imposing sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea that Trump recently signed into law. Kislyak said the action would hinder US-Russia relations going forward.
“It’s the sanctions law, but sanctions is an instrument, it’s basically a statement of being anti-Russian,” Kislyak said. “It’s not going to be wished away, it’s going to stay and it’s going to spoil ability of both countries to resume a normalcy in our relations. And normalcy in our relationship is exactly what is missing,” he told CNN.
Trump criticised the measure as well when he signed it, calling the bill “seriously flawed” and saying it “improperly encroaches on executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.”
Kislyak has long been one of the key Russian figures at the center of the Trump-Russia controversy. He met with then-Trump surrogate and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions at least twice during the campaign, contacts that Sessions failed to disclose to the Senate during his confirmation hearing earlier this year. Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any current and future investigations into the 2016 presidential campaigns after the revelations.
Kislyak also reportedly discussed lifting US sanctions on Russia with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during the transition period. Flynn was forced to resign after these discussions were reported and it emerged that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
CNN additionally asked Kislyak about an explosive Washington Post report in May alleging that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, proposed setting up a back channel of communication between the US and Russia using Russian diplomatic facilities.
Kislyak did not confirm or deny the report.
“I’ve said many times that we do not discuss the substance of our discussions with our American interlocutors,” Kislyak said. “Out of respect to our partners.”
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