White House calls reported Trump meeting with Russian ambassador 'absurd'

The White House says they don't recollect if the men shook hands.

Kislyak was seated in the front row as Trump delivered a 45-minute foreign policy address at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, ABC News reported Sunday.

The Center for the National Interest, which sponsored the event, released a statement Thursday saying that Kislyak was among about two-dozen people invited “a short reception prior to Mr. Trump’s speech” where the candidate greeted them in a receiving line.

“The line moved quickly and any conversations with Mr. Trump in that setting were inherently brief and could not be private,” the statement said. “Our recollection is that the interaction between Mr. Trump and Ambassador Kislyak was limited to the polite exchange of pleasantries appropriate on such occasions.”

White House officials dismissed the significance of Trump and Kislyak meeting in this manner.

“If they met, it was in passing at arrival reception hosted by National Interest which [Trump] was present at for all of 5 minutes,” a senior White House official said Saturday. “We arrived minutes before the speech began and departed immediately after.”

A White House official said that the Russian ambassador did not attend the speech at Trump’s invitation and that the Trump team was not responsible for inviting or vetting guests.

"We have no recollection of who he may have shaken hands with at the reception and we were not responsible for inviting or vetting guests," the official said. "To state they met or that a meeting took place is disingenuous and absurd."

Trump’s speech in the hotel ballroom offered an early look at the candidate’s approach to foreign policy. In addition to the Russian ambassador, then-Sen. Sessions was also in the audience. At the time, Sessions was serving as a senior campaign advisor.

“I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia – from a position of strength – is possible,” Trump said in the speech.

Upon his forced resignation, Flynn admitted to speaking multiple times with Kislyak and "inadvertently" providing "incomplete information" to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the conversations.