(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said alongside his Russian counterpart Tuesday that he had made clear during their talks that Moscow’s interference in U.S. elections was “unacceptable” and that the Trump administration will “take action in response” in the event “Russia or any foreign actor take steps to undermine our democratic processes.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, stuck to the Kremlin’s longstanding line that not only were allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election “baseless,” the United States had not provided any proof to back them up.
Pompeo pushed back – although much later in the press conference, during which Lavrov had spoken nonstop for almost 16 minutes.
“We think we’ve shared plenty of facts to show what happened in the 2016 election with our Russian counterparts,” Pompeo said. “We don’t think there’s any mistake about what really transpired there.”
A reporter asked Pompeo why, if the Russian want the U.S. to provide information about Russian election interference, they do not simply read the Mueller report.
“It’s very detailed when it comes to U.S. allegations related to meddling in the 2016 election,” the reporter suggested.
“We read it,” Lavrov replied. “There is no proof of any collusion.”
The reporter’s question, however, did not refer to questions of “collusion” but to the issue of Russian interference in the election.
The Mueller report did detail attempts by the Russians to interfere in the elections in two main ways – through “a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States,” and through “hacking and dumping operations” designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election.
Twenty-five Russians, including 12 military intelligence officers suspected of trying to interfere in the election, were indicted.
The U.S. Treasury also early last year announced sanctions on Russian entities and individuals for cyberattacks and interference – the first sanctions targeting Russia under the 2017 Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Trump signed into law the previous summer.
In his opening remarks at the State Department on Tuesday, Pompeo said that during his talks with Lavrov, “on the question of interference in our domestic affairs, I was clear it’s unacceptable, and I made our expectations of Russia clear.”
“The Trump administration will always work to protect the integrity of our elections, period,” he said. “Should Russia or any foreign actor take steps to undermine our democratic processes, we will take action in response.”
During his lengthy response, Lavrov fretted that bilateral cooperation “continues to be hindered by the wave of suspicions that has overcome Washington.”
“We have highlighted once again that all speculations about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the United States are baseless; there are no facts that would support that,” he said. “We did not see these facts. No one has given us this proof because, simply, it does not exist.”
The response from Pompeo came later: “We think we’ve shared plenty of facts to show what happened in the 2016 election with our Russian counterparts. We don’t think there’s any mistake about what really transpired there.”