With the temperature reaching over 100 degrees in San Francisco on Friday, local residents called 911 after observing a pillar of black smoke emitted from the Russian consulate’s chimney. Ordered to vacate the facility by Saturday, Russian officials allegedly began burning documents and other forms of evidence on the day prior to their abrupt departure from the U.S.
In response to Russia’s interference with last year’s presidential election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign, President Barack Obama had ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the U.S. while seizing two Russian diplomatic properties in New York and Maryland. Although members of Donald Trump’s campaign team repeatedly met with Russian officials to organize backchannels and offer reassurances that Trump would immediately roll back Obama’s sanctions against Russia, the U.S. Senate approved broad economic sanctions in July.
The next day, the Kremlin reacted by seizing two U.S. diplomatic properties in Russia while ordering the U.S. diplomatic team in Russia to eliminate nearly half of their staff. On Thursday, the State Department ordered the Russian government to vacate three facilities in the U.S.
“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington DC, and a consular annex in New York,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Thursday.
Around noon on Friday, San Francisco residents called the Fire Department to report black smoke billowing from the Russian consulate’s chimney during a massive heat wave. As the Fire Department arrived at the facility, Russian officials turned them away while refusing to confirm what was being burned inside the consulate.
Shortly afterward, California Rep. Jackie Speier took to Twitter and wrote, “If there ever was doubt that espionage was going on in the SF consulate, black smoke clears the air on the issue.”
“I have no idea what they are burning,” Bay Area Air District spokesperson Lisa Fasano told The New York Times. “But we are having poor air quality out here right now. We need to do everything we can to protect our air.”
Despite the fact that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump directly made the decision to expel the Russians on Thursday, Sanders and most of the president’s other mouthpieces have irrevocably ruined their credibility and integrity by incessantly lying to the American public. Given Trump’s sycophantic relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Trump’s critics adamantly suggest that the president was forced into expelling the Russians.