The White House had downplayed the reports that then-candidate Donald Trump met the Russian ambassador to the US at a 2016 campaign event, just before Trump delivered a speech that called for "an easing of tensions" with Russia.
The reports of Trump's April 2016 encounter with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak came just days after two of Trump's top advisers -- former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- became embroiled in controversy following the revelation that they each spoke with the ambassador prior to the Inauguration, ABC News reported on Thursday.
Kislyak was seated in the front row as Trump delivered a 45-minute foreign policy address at Washington's Mayflower Hotel.
The Centre for the National Interest, which sponsored the event, released a statement on Thursday saying that Kislyak was among about two-dozen people invited "a short reception prior to Trump's speech" where the candidate greeted them in a receiving line.
"The line moved quickly and any conversations with Trump in that setting were inherently brief and could not be private," the statement said.
"Our recollection is that the interaction between Mr. Trump and Ambassador Kislyak was limited to the polite exchange of pleasantries appropriate on such occasions," it added.
White House officials dismissed the significance of Trump and Kislyak meeting in this manner.