The day after firing the man in charge of investigating his ties to Russia, Trump invited top Russian officials – including one at the center of the Trump-Russia investigation – to the White House for a meeting. And shut out the White House press corps.

The day after summarily firing former FBI Director James Comey, Donald Trump took active steps to move the United States closer to Russia – despite two warnings within the previous week that Russia poses an existential threat to this country. The White House appears unconcerned about the brazen disregard for national security the immediate juxtaposition of the Comey firing and the meeting with Russian officials demonstrates to the American people.

In addition, the White House press corp was denied access to the meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

As a result, once again, the American press and public must rely on Russian sources for information:

The inclusion of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who is at the center of the FBI investigations into Russian active measures and who secretly met during and after the 2016 presidential campaign with Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Michael Flynn, and Jared Kushner, was not officially announced by the White House. However, some U.S. journalists caught sight of him entering the building:

And after the meeting, the Kremlin publicized Kislyak’s inclusion:

When asked about the meeting later by U.S. press, Trump reportedly commented, “Had a very good meeting with Lavrov. I thought it was very, very good.” He did not mention Kislyak.

To make matters worse, the official White House read-out of the meeting also did not mention Kislyak’s presence:

Within the past week, both now-former FBI Director Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued warnings about the threat Russia poses. At the hearing on May 8th before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, Clapper testified about the severity of the threat of Russia’s active measures against the U.S.:

If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it.

I hope the American people recognize the severity of this threat and that we collectively counter it before it further erodes the fabric of our democracy.

During a hearing before the same subcommittee on May 3rd, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked then FBI Director Comey “what kind of a threat” Russia posed to our “democratic process.” Comey responded under oath, “Certainly, in my view, the greatest threat of any nation on Earth, given their intention and their capability.”

One week later, Comey – the official who was heading up the entire investigation into the possibility of collusion between Trump and Russia – was fired without warning, and Russian officials were invited to the White House for a hidden meeting from which both Trump and Lavrov emerged optimistic about the future of U.S./Russia relations.

These events taking place in such close succession is not only “bad optics,” but also a brazen challenge to U.S. government institutions and our system of checks and balances.