President Trump has remained silent on the abuses taking place in Chechnya and a White House official was unable to say if he has even been briefed on the situation.
When the Washington Blade asked Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if the reports of the false imprisonment, beatings, and murders of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya came up in President Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday, she said she was unaware.
She instead referred reporters to the readout for the meeting between the two of them, which says the topics discussed were Syria, “in particular, underscoring the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies,” as well as the Middle East, and Ukraine.
Adding to the intrigue is that Trump allowed Russian state-owned media photographers into the meeting, but barred the U.S. news media, a decision that raised alarms among former U.S. intelligence officials as a potentially major breach of national security.
Finally, the readout states, “The President further emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia.”
Nothing about Chechnya.
Michael Anton, a White House National Security Council spokesperson, later confirmed to the Blade via email that the topic was not broached at the meeting between Trump and Lavrov.
What’s worse, at this point, it remains unclear if Trump has even been briefed on the situation.
“That is something I would have to get back to you on. I am not 100 percent sure,” Sanders replied when asked.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has condemned the reports on behalf of the Trump White House, but Trump has yet to speak out on the issue.
Last month, Hillary Clinton called on Trump to demand action against the atrocities, saying it wasn’t good enough to only have Haley speak on the issue.
So far, still nothing from the president himself, and no desire to press the issue in a meeting with a top Russian official. Taken together, it calls into serious question whether or not Trump is truly concerned about the issue.
The Kremlin at first denied the allegations but has now, amid global pressure, Putin has said he supports an investigation. Continued pressure could help move that along and ensure this isn’t just lip service.
If Trump wanted to prove he really cared about the LGBTQ community, this would be an easy home run. His silence speaks volumes.