“Attorney General William P. Barr may have one particular storyline in mind when he says liberal media were doing “all they could to sensationalize and drive” the empty Russia scandal: the Mayflower Hotel.
The press wrote scores of stories in 2017 about candidate Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech at the downtown D.C. landmark. The articles promoted scandalous Russia ties and supposed out-and-out lying. They centered on three men who were in the same room that April 27, 2016: Mr. Trump, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican.
In the end, perhaps no other anti-Trump story involving Russia promised so much only to produce investigative findings of virtually nothing.
(…) Mr. Trump’s foreign policy campaign speech at the Mayflower Hotel was sponsored by The National Interest, a publication of the Center for the National Interest, and its director, Dimitri Simes. The center works to build better relations between Washington and Moscow.
A year later, in the spring of 2017, the Mayflower became one of the hottest media topics on ties between Mr. Trump and Russia. Reporters began churning out scores of accusatory stories. That March, then-FBI Director James B. Comey announced that the entire Trump apparatus was under scrutiny for any links to Russia. Trump aides say that from that day forward, they felt like they had a target on their back for any time they ever talked to a Russian.
Here is a sampling of Mayflower stories:
⦁ NBC News: “Five current and former U.S. officials said they are aware of classified intelligence suggesting there was some sort of private encounter between Trump and his aides and the Russian envoy, despite a heated denial from Sessions, who has already come under fire for failing to disclose two separate contacts with Kislyak.”
⦁ The Independent, a British news website: “The meeting between the two men took place while Mr. Trump was at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington April 27, 2016. The reports directly contradict the president’s repeated denials about contact with Russian officials prior to his election.”
⦁ Bloomberg News: “President Trump met last April with the Russian ambassador at the center of a pair of controversies.”
⦁ HuffPost: “It is not clear what Trump and Kislyak discussed, or how extensive the interaction was.”
⦁ Newsweek: “Sessions’s lies about his Russia Contacts: Chapter and Verse … Lying to Congress is a felony and special counsel Robert Mueller may have jurisdiction here since these statements materially relate to the investigation of Trump campaign relations with Russia.”
⦁ CNN: “Investigators on the Hill are requesting additional information, including schedules from Sessions, a source with knowledge tells CNN. They are focusing on whether such a meeting took place April 27, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, where then-candidate Donald Trump was delivering his first major foreign policy address.”
⦁ The Washington Post: Intercepts of Mr. Kislyak’s phone calls to superiors has him saying he talked about the 2016 campaign with Trump aides at the Mayflower.
“Current and former U.S. officials said that that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations in two encounters during the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech [at the Mayflower] and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention,” The Post said.
⦁ The New York Times: “The origin of the Mayflower story can be traced, according to several American officials, to raw intelligence picked up by American spy agencies last year that is now held at C.I.A. headquarters in Virginia. The intelligence appears to be based on intercepts of Mr. Kislyak discussing a private meeting he had with Mr. Sessions at a Trump campaign event last April at the luxury hotel.”