Pompeo says discussed election interference in Lavrov meeting
The top American and Russian diplomats met in Washington on Tuesday, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he addressed Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 election with his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Zachary Goelman reports.
Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Tuesday (December 10).
And in a news conference afterward Pompeo catalogued the unresolved international issues concerning Washington and Moscow.
Included in that list was this item: (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, SAYING: "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.
Should Russia or any foreign actor take steps to undermine our democratic process we will take action in response." That was how Pompeo addressed the largest controversy overshadowing the Trump Administration: Russia's alleged efforts to sway the 2016 election toward the Republican.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's nearly two-year investigation charged 12 Russian intelligence officers, another 13 Russian citizens and three Russian companies with hacking and disseminating Democratic Party e-mails, and spreading misinformation in order to undermine Hillary Clinton's candidacy.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT MUELLER, SAYING (July 24): "Over the course of my career, I've seen a number of challenges to our democracy.
The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious." At his testimony in July, Mueller said Moscow was undeterred, and getting ready to do it again.
On Tuesday, Lavrov repeated his government's denial that they interfered.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian/English) RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV, SAYING: "All speculation about our alleged interference in the domestic processes in the United States are baseless." Pompeo politely disagreed, but again seemed somewhat dismissive of the topic.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, SAYING: "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." He didn't say what transpired there.
Mueller said the Trump campaign eagerly welcomed Russia's interference in 2016.
Trump, and some of his Republican allies in Congress, have claimed without evidence that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for the hacking.
Pompeo's meeting with Lavrov came just hours after Democratic lawmakers formally approved articles of impeachment accusing Trump, in part, of trying to pressure Ukraine to investigate this theory.
It also comes a day after the Justice Department's own watchdog found that the FBI was justified when it launched its investigation into Trump's links to Russia.
Lavrov and Pompeo met with Trump later on Tuesday.
The last time time Lavrov was in the Oval Office, there was a different Secretary of State.
And it occured just after Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV, SAYING: "Was he fired?
You're kidding." That firing triggered the appointment of Mueller as special counsel.
Trump has called both the Russia probe and the impeachment process a "witch hunt."