Russia’s top diplomat used the White House as a stage Tuesday to deny that his country meddled in the 2016 US election — and suggest that Ukraine’s supposed interference was further proof.
“The elections of 2016 has nothing to do with us, that is an issue between two sovereign states. But it shows the extent of the absurdity about the accusations about us and Russian intervention,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, referring to Ukraine.
Pompeo pushed back on the Russian’s claims, which echoed an unverified theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in the US election.
“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,” Pompeo replied.
But Lavrov in a lengthy diatribe insisted that Russia was innocent and that the conclusion of the US Intelligence Community and GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia had interfered was wrong and had hurt US relations with the country.
“We understand that our joint work was hindered and continues to be hindered by the wave of suspicions that have 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 and we did not see these facts,” Lavrov said.
When a reporter suggested he read the report of former special counsel Robert Mueller if he were looking for evidence, the foreign minister bristled, dismissed the report and said it contained no proof.
Mueller concluded that there was a massive effort ordered by President Vladimir Putin to meddle in the election to help Trump.
The arguments about Ukraine’s purported role were described as a Putin-inspired myth by State Department and national security officials during House impeachment proceedings.
Attorney General Bill Barr, meanwhile, distanced himself from a growing GOP narrative that Ukraine meddled in the election, saying he hadn’t really looked into the matter.
“I am confident the Russians attempted to interfere in the election. I don’t know about the Ukrainians, I haven’t even looked into it, frankly,” Barr told NBC News.
“Fortunately I haven’t gotten into the Ukraine thing yet. I don’t know. I’m not even sure about the nature of these allegations.”
Lavrov, meanwhile, was scheduled to sit down with Trump following his meeting with Pompeo.
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