President Trump is firing back at the top Senate Democrat calling for an investigation into his administration’s alleged Kremlin ties — by tweeting out pictures of him hobnobbing with Russian President Vladimir Putin almost 14 years ago.
“We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!” Trump wrote in a tweet posted to both his personal and presidential accounts Friday afternoon.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2017
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded shortly after with a tweet of his own: “Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in ’03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team?”
Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in '03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team? https://t.co/yXgw3U8tmQ
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 3, 2017
The spat is taking place barely a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all Justice Department proceedings having to do with the Trump campaign, after it was revealed that he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice — but did not disclose those meetings to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing.
Sessions is only the latest member of the Trump team whose ties to Kremlin officials have been brought to light in recent months, as congressional committees and the FBI dig into allegations of contacts between Russia and campaign officials during the 2016 elections. Trump administration officials have accused Democrats and the press of a witch hunt.
Later Friday, Trump added House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to the list of Democratic leaders whom he believes should be investigated over Russia ties. He tweeted an article about Pelosi’s 2010 meeting with Kislyak, which came a day after Pelosi told reporters that she had never met Kislyak.
“I hereby demand a second investigation, after Schumer, of Pelosi for her close ties to Russia, and lying about it,” Trump tweeted.
Schumer has been one of Trump’s chief and most constant antagonists in Congress on this point, raising concerns about the Russia connections of several of Trump’s administration officials and campaign surrogates.
But back to that picture with Putin.
The picture that Trump chose to post has been floating about conservative media since at least the beginning of the year, but dates back to September 2003, when Putin visited the United States to — among other things — open the first Lukoil gas station in the United States, in Manhattan.
Lukoil is a Russian oil company that acquired American company Getty Petroleum Marketing — and its gas stations — in late 2000. In 2003, the United States also saw it — and Russian oil in general — as a potential answer to budding problems in the oil markets.
At the time, the United States was pretty dependent on OPEC nations for its oil consumption. North American natural gas production hadn’t really taken off yet, and the United States had just gone to war in Iraq — and many were worried that the heavily Middle Eastern OPEC would manipulate the per-barrel cost of oil sky-high.
In fact, just days before Schumer and Putin’s doughnut gas station summit, OPEC announced it would cut production by 900,000 barrels a year. Russia — not an OPEC member nation — seemed to offer an outlet to soften the blow.
Back in 2003, it’s important to note, the United States and Russia were also far friendlier to each other than they are today. Russia had offered support for the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and cooperation in the war in Afghanistan. Even though Russia had criticized the Iraq War as an “error,” U.S.-Russia relations were, comparatively, in good shape. It would be another five years before the 2008 war in Georgia began to decidedly sour relations — and the 2014 Ukraine conflict to send them into free fall.
To put a stronger point on it: On his September 2003 trip, Putin even visited Camp David with President George W. Bush, according to the Associated Press.
Still, Bush did not show up at the Manhattan Lukoil gas station to fete Putin’s new American oil era as Schumer did.
And for those wondering, the doughnuts, according to a caption on the original AP photo, were from Krispy Kreme.