TRENTON, N.J. – Twenty-eight year-old Ryan Waters of Trenton, New Jersey, first met Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in May of 2016. “I was standing in my driveway getting ready to wash my car and a taxi pulled up,” explained Waters in an exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper airing this Sunday on CNN. “A man gets out and tell’s me he’s the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and the next thing I know he’s helping me wash my car.”
As bizarre as it sounds, Waters isn’t the first American citizen to receive an unannounced visit from Sergey Kislyak. A months-long investigation conducted by CNN reveals Moscow’s chief diplomat met privately with some twenty million American voters in the months leading up to the U.S. election. A senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity said the seemingly random encounters were part of a much larger plot. “You look at these visits like pieces of a puzzle,” the official said. “When you finish the puzzle what you’re looking at is a deliberate act by Russia to charm the American populace.”
David and Melanie Anderson of Punta Gorda, Florida, will never forget the day Russian Ambassador Kislyak walked into their life. On the evening of July 6th, David Anderson, a seventy-one year-old retired Navy pilot, was in his kitchen preparing dinner. “Melanie was out back tending to the garden and I had just put the pork chops in the oven when I heard a knock at the door,” he recalled. “I said to myself, ‘Who could that be?” Moments later, David opened his front door to find the Russian ambassador standing on his doorstep with a honey baked ham and a bottle of Rosé. “We ended up playing a lot of bridge that night,” Mr Anderson told CNN.
Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant-general and former adviser to President Donald J. Trump, says it’s not that uncommon for private citizens to speak to Russian ambassadors. “Private citizens have a right to speak to whomever they want,” Lieutenant General Flynn told Anderson Cooper. “That’s what makes this country so great; it’s what the Founding Fathers intended when they wrote the Constitution.”
Still, Flynn acknowledged that millions of everyday Americans will go their entire lives without ever hearing the name Sergey Kislyak. Seventy year-old Jeffery Sessions of Selma, Alabama, is one of them. Sessions, who told CNN he works as an attorney general, said he has no idea who Ambassador Kislyak is. “I’ve never met the guy,” he told Anderson Cooper. “Never seen him before in my life.”