President Donald Trump has warned Russia against interfering in US elections and urged a resolution to the country’s conflict with Ukraine, the White House said on Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had clashed with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a news conference earlier in the day when the Russian diplomat denied any evidence of his country’s interference in the 2016 presidential election according to The Washington Post. Pompeo declared that interference had happened and “it’s unacceptable.”
“President Trump warned against any Russian attempts to interfere in United States elections,” a brief White House summary of the meeting said, without elaboration.
Trump has repeatedly questioned the findings of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump and harm his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The trio also discussed arms control, Ukraine, the war in Syria and Venezuela during the wide-ranging meeting on Tuesday, Pompeo said.
The talks represent Lavrov’s first visit to the capital since a controversial Oval Office meeting with Trump in 2017, and come as US House of Representative impeachment proceedings into the president’s dealings with Ukraine, which has been fighting pro-Russia separatists in the country’s east, are picking up steam.
The Russian foreign minister’s invitation to Washington came as House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
It also came one day after a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris, where the two leaders agreed to implement a “full and comprehensive” cease-fire in eastern Ukraine by the end of the year.
The United States is the principal backer of Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, but Zelensky entered the negotiating session with Russia weakened by revelations that Trump held up military aid for his country, actions that now form the basis of impeachment against the president accusing him of using his office for personal gains.
The White House statement said only that Trump urged Russia to resolve the conflict. The statement, however, made no mention of Crimea, the region of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014.
At a news conference at the State Department, Pompeo and Lavrov both stated their support for an improvement in U.S.-Russia relations despite broad disagreement between the two powers on an array of issues from Venezuela to Syria to Ukraine.
Lavrov said Russia has demanded the United States provide evidence of election interference, but when asked by a reporter why he doesn’t simply “read the Mueller report,” Lavrov dismissed the suggestion.