Em­bassy pro­test­ers ask, ‘Can we talk to Sergey?!’

Demon­stra­tors tar­get Rus­sian am­bas­sador af­ter Cabi­net rev­e­la­tions

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY IAN SHAPIRA ian.shapira@wash­post.com

An­drew Sei­d­man, 33, a high school English teacher from Mary­land, stood out­side the Rus­sian Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton on Satur­day morn­ing, yelling a ques­tion:

“Can we talk to Sergey?! Is he in there?”

Sergey, as ev­ery­one knows th­ese days, would be Sergey Kislyak, the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the United States, who sits at the cen­ter of a hur­ri­can-es­que news cy­cle over his con­ver­sa­tions with Trump ad­vis­ers in the runup to and im­me­di­ately af­ter the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Sur­rounded by umpteen sur­veil­lance cam­eras on nearby lamp posts (and per­haps many more that could not be as eas­ily spot­ted), Sei­d­man joined dozens of other like­minded peo­ple to protest Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­ceived ties to the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment out­side the em­bassy, just north of Ge­orge­town, on Wis­con­sin Av­enue.

To their dis­ap­point­ment, Rus­sia’s long­time en­voy did not emerge from the gated com­pound to greet his vis­i­tors. The Wash­ing­ton Post emailed the em­bassy’s press of­fice on Satur­day seek­ing com­ment, but the mes­sage was not re­turned.

The pro­test­ers con­verged out­side the em­bassy in Glover Park fol­low­ing a spate of rev­e­la­tions in the press in the past month show­ing that former and cur­rent Trump ad­vis­ers — Michael Flynn, the ex-na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions — had not dis­closed that they had spo­ken with Kislyak be­fore the elec­tion or be­fore the inau­gu­ra­tion.

The Post broke a story Wed­nes­day show­ing that last year, when Ses­sions was a Trump sur­ro­gate and Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Alabama, he spoke twice with Kislyak — dis­cus­sions that he failed to men­tion dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for at­tor­ney gen­eral when asked about com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

The Post re­ported that one of the meet­ings be­tween Ses­sions and Kislyak hap­pened in Septem­ber, at the peak of what Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials have deemed a Rus­sian cy­ber cam­paign that helped re­veal em­bar­rass­ing emails from the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man.

At the Satur­day protest out­side the em­bassy — which sits on a hill­top known as Mount Alto, one of the cap­i­tal’s high­est points — peo­ple car­ried signs that read: “Bro­mance, Bribery, Black­mail, Bad! In­ves­ti­gate Trump + Vlad” and “Tin­kle Tin­kle Lit­tle Czar, Putin Put You Where You Are.” One per­son pasted the words from a re­cent New York Times ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign onto her poster: “TRUTH. It’s more im­por­tant now than ever.”

The event was or­ga­nized not by a Demo­crat but by a self­de­scribed con­ser­va­tive who says he al­ways voted Repub­li­can for pres­i­dent un­til Novem­ber, when he cast his bal­lot for a third-party can­di­date. Greg Sch­lies­mann, 35, a branch man­ager at a mort­gage com­pany in Wis­con­sin, spread the word about the event through Face­book.

“It’s ironic that we are protest­ing an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent at the Rus­sian Em­bassy,” he said, clutch­ing a sign that read, “GOP Stop Putin’ Party Over Truth.”

The Rus­sian Em­bassy is hardly a new tar­get for pro­test­ers. In Au­gust 2013, about 100 peo­ple gath­ered at the build­ing to rally against the Rus­sian im­pris­on­ment of two mem­bers of the punk-rock group Pussy Riot.

At Satur­day’s protest, peo­ple railed against Ses­sions and Trump and belted out singsong chants: “Repub­li­cans, don’t hes­i­tate! You need to in­ves­ti­gate!”

James Kameen, a sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager for a fit­ness com­pany, came with his friend, a fed­eral con­trac­tor for the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, who did not want to be named. (For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, she said.) Kameen said he’s been track­ing news about Trump’s ties to Rus­sia since last year and fret­ted that the rev­e­la­tions “keep get­ting big­ger and big­ger.”

His friend nod­ded. “I feel like he’s mak­ing us into Rus­sia,” she said.

Just then, a woman wear­ing a furry hat and jacket ap­proached the em­bassy gates. She was push­ing a stroller hold­ing a child. She buzzed right on in.

The mo­ment to sneak in­side — to meet a Rus­sian of­fi­cial, to ask ques­tions, nose around a bit — was clos­ing. The gate opened, then shut just as quickly. Kameen and his friend stayed put. They stared at the woman fad­ing be­hind the black gates, won­der­ing just who she was.

PHO­TOS BY EVE­LYN HOCKSTEIN FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Eric Hon­our, left, and Diane Dzikiewicz, right, protest Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­ceived ties to Rus­sia on Satur­day out­side the Rus­sian Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton. Trump ad­vis­ers have caused con­tro­versy by not dis­clos­ing that they had spo­ken with Rus­sia’s U.S. am­bas­sador.

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