One of the more intriguing images related to the Trump-Russia scandal is a photograph from December 2015 of future (now former) National Security Advisor Michael Flynn sitting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow gala for the Kremlim-backed news outlet RT. On the other side of the table that night was Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Until now, Stein hasn’t offered many details about how she came to be there or what happened beyond saying it was “a great opportunity to lay out some of my foreign policy proposals and get Russian reactions to them.”
In an interview with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill posted on Wednesday, Stein fills in her story about the evening, starting with “the mythology that this was an intimate dinner.” Stein tells Scahill that she did not know she would be seated with Putin or Flynn, and that her interaction with both men was minimal. Putin and his companions, she says, “stormed in” and “really weren’t at the table for very long.” She thought the other members of Putin’s party were his bodyguards—in fact, they were Putin’s spokesman, chief of staff, and deputy chief of staff. Beyond a perfunctory handshake with the Russian leader, she says, “Nobody met anybody. I didn’t hear any words exchanged between English speakers and Russians.”
Flynn’s $45,000 payment from RT for that appearance—and his alleged failure to disclose it—are among several issues that landed him in hot water. Yet, Stein says that RT did not pay or compensate her in any way. “They did not offer to pay me,” she says, adding, “They did offer to pay my way and I said, No thank you.”
Stein also says she had little idea who Flynn was, though she had a brief, friendly conversation in which she told him about her efforts to promote nuclear disarmament and build “a peace consensus.” That mission was the impetus for her trip to Moscow, she tells The Intercept. “There was nothing secretive about why I was there… The dinner had absolutely no relevance to my trip.” She emphasizes that she went to RT’s 1oth anniversary celebration to open a dialogue with Russians, even though she apparently did not try to speak with Putin about her agenda. However, she mentions that her trip was a chance to meet with other “peace advocates,” including former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
In response to Scahill’s questions about how Democrats have handled the Trump-Russia scandal, Stein suggests that liberals’ current animosity toward Russia is linked to attacks on her and Green voters for supposedly enabling Trump’s election win. “Because of the way the neo-McCarthyism is hooked up with the new Cold War and the anti-Russia surge, this is a very dangerous moment. We have our nuclear weapons on hair trigger alert,” she says. “This is the Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse on steroids—in fact, on crack.” Russia, she says, understandably feels “touchy” about perceived American belligerence.
Asked what she ate at the RT dinner, Stein says, “I’m a fish-eating vegetarian…There were lots of great vegetable dishes and salad.” She says she doesn’t recall seeing any caviar.