Amid flood of questions, Pompeo vows Trump will hold Russia accountable for election meddling

By On July 25, 2018

Amid flood of questions, Pompeo vows Trump will hold Russia accountable for election meddling

Amid flood of questions, Pompeo vows Trump will hold Russia accountable for election meddlingCLOSE

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has personally told top Russian officials that there will be "severe consequence" for any interference in U.S. elections or the American democratic process. (July 25)

WASHINGTON â€" Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weathered a blizzard of barbed questions from senators on Wednesday about President Trump’s conciliatory stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and his contradictory, and sometimes misleading, statements about America’s allies and adversaries.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo said emphatically that Trump understands the threat Russia pos es to American democracy and argued the president has been more aggressive than his predecessors in holding Putin accountable for his actions across the globe, including the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“President Trump has stated that he accepts our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. He has a complete and proper understanding of what happened," Pompeo said in his opening remarks. “I know â€" I briefed him on it for over a year. This is perfectly clear to me personally.”

That did not assuage skeptical lawmakers who pilloried Trump’s statements last week during a joint news conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. At that news conference, held after the two leaders met privately, Trump downplayed the conclusions of America’s intelligence agencies and said he accepted Putin’s assertion that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“You come befor e a group of senators today who are filled with serious doubts about this White House and its conduct of American foreign policy,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the panel. Corker had been critical of Trump's Helsinki meeting with Putin, saying “we saw an American president who appeared submissive and deferential.”

Secretary Pompeo testifies on U.S., Russia foreign relations Fullscreen

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies to Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 25, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Fullscreen Majority Chairman Sen.Bob Corker questions Secretary of State Pompeo as he testifies to Senate Foreign Relations Committee on diplomacy and national security. Fullscreen Ranking member Sen. Bob M enendez questions Secretary of State Pompeo as he testifies to Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Fullscreen Secretary of State Pompeo testifies to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wednesday, saying President Donald Trump has taken “a staggering number” of steps to protect U.S. interests abroad. Fullscreen Majority committee member Sen. Rand Paul questions Secretary Pompeo as he testifies to Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Fullscreen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he U.S. rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and the administrtion called on Moscow to end its occupation of the territory while testifying to the Sentate Foreign Relations Committee. Fullscreen Committee m ember Tim Kaine anticipates Secretary of State Pompeo testimony, Wednesday before Senate Foreign Relations Committee on diplomacy and national security. FullscreenReplay
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Trump later tried to walk back his pro-Putin remarks, but he has not disclosed what he and Putin discussed during their controversial, closed-door tête-à-tête. Senators tried, with limited success, to glean details from Pompeo about that private Trump-Putin conversation.

In one tense exchange, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked Pompeo if Trump discussed relaxing economic sanctions on Russia and if Trump confronted Putin about its aggression in Urkaine and its annexation of Crimea, among other topics.

Pompeo said he would not disclose the details of their private meeting, but said U.S. policy toward Russia has not changed as a result of the meeting and "no commitment" was made to ease U.S. sanctions.

Similarly, Pompeo did not directly answer a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about whether Trump agreed to any changes to the U.S. military’s role in Syria, where Russia is propping up the brutal dictatorship of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“There’s been no change in U.S. policy with respect” to Syria, Pompeo said.

“That’s not exactly the question I’m asking,” Shaheen responded.

“It’s what matters,” the secretary responded.

Pompeo disclosed only three issues discussed by Trump and Putin during their closed-door session last week: reviving an exchange between the two countries' business leaders; re-establishing a counterterrorism council to increase cooperation on that front; and working to return the millions of displaced Syrians who have fled their war-torn country.

North Korea relations

Pompeo was equally circumspect about the Trump Administration's negotiations with North Korea, whose leader, Kim Jong un signed a vague pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula after a summit with Trump in June.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., suggested that North Korea has taken only “empty gestures” toward fulfilling the agreement, such as dismantling an outdated nuclear testing facility. Markey said he fears the U.S. is “being taken for a ride.”

“Fear not, senator,” Pompeo responded. He expressed confidence that North Korea understands the U.S. definition of denuclearization and is committed to achieving that goal.

But Pompeo refused to say whether North Korea had provided an inventory of their nuclear arsenal, considered a first step toward denuclearization, or taken any other significant steps toward that goal.

"We are sitting at the table having conversations," Pompeo said, adding that were "lots of discussions that I’m not going to get in here today."

Pompeo did say that North Korea continues to make fissile material and suggested he could disclose more information about the status of the communist dictatorship's nuclear program in a closed-door session.

Corker suggested the president's rhetoric on North Korea, and specifically the country's leader Kim, was bizarre. Calling him "one of the most ruthless leaders on the planet," Corker noted that one in ten North Koreans are enslaved and many of the country's children are starving.

“In the face of these realities, the president has called (Kim Jong un) ‘very talented’ and that ‘he loves his people’," Corker said. “Really?"

The Tennessee Republican said such statements were deeply alarming to lawmakers and confusing for the American public, taking the president to task for inaccurate comments implying that NATO member states owe the U.S. money for defense.

"Why does he do those things?" Corker asked. "Is there a strategy to this or what is it that causes the president to purposely create distrust in these institutions?"

"I disagree with most of what you just said," Pompeo responded. He argued that lawmakers should pay attention to U.S. policy, not the president's words, when trying to decipher where he stands.

More: Must-see TV? A guide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's congressional grilling on Russia, Iran and more

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More: Donald Trump says he 'gave up nothing' in Putin summit but offers no specifics on talks

Mike Pompeo ceremonially sworn in as Secretary of State Fullscreen

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Mike Pompeo watches as President Donald Trump speaks during Pompeo's ceremonial swearing in as Secretary of State at the State Department in Washington on May 2, 2018. Fullscreen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo smiles in a holding room before he was ceremonially sworn in at the State Department on May 2, 2018, in Washington. Fullscreen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, takes the oath during his ceremonial swearing in at the State Department in Washington on May 2, 2018. Fullscreen Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner attend the ceremonial swearing in ceremony for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington on May 2, 2018. Fullscreen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo smiles as President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremonial swearing in for Pompeo at the State Department on May 2, 2018 in Washington. Fullscreen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with President Donald Trump during a ceremonial swearing in for Pompeo at the State Department on May 2, 2018, in Washington. Fullscreen Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrives for a ceremonial swearing in for Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State on May 2, 2018 at the State Department in Washington. Fullscreen CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel attends the ceremonial swearing in ceremony for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington on May 2, 2018. Fullscreen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, his wife, Susan Pompeo, and President Donald Trump participate in a ceremonial swearing in ceremony at the State Department in Washington on May 2, 2018. Fullscreen President Donald Trump greets Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a ceremonial swearing in at the State Department on May 2, 2018, in Washington. Vice President Mike Pence is at right. FullscreenReplay
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AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsRead or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2LkCgqVSource: Google News Russia | Netizen 24 Russia

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