Tillerson: Putin Asked Trump For Proof Of Russia’s Interference In The 2016 Election
As part of the 2+ hour discussion between presidents Trump and Putin, AP reports that the Russian president asked for “proof and evidence” of Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 election which Russia denies. The request was made after Trump confronted Putin about Moscow’s election meddling during their first face-to-face meeting in Germany on Friday, according to Rex Tillerson who was present in the meeting. The secretary of state told reporters afterward that Trump opened the conversation by “raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
Putin once again denied Russian involvement, Tillerson said, but Trump “pressed” him on the matter “on more than one occasion.”
‘President Putin denied such involvement as I think he has in the past,’ he continued.
The Russians, speaking after the meeting, claimed that Trump accepted the denial – but Tillerson did not. Instead he said the issue may simply be an ‘intractable disagreement.’ Tillerson also said the Russians pushed Trump for proof and evidence of meddling, something which the president himself had doubted in public as recently as Thursday.
“The president at this point pressed him and felt like at this point, let’s talk about how do we go forward,’ Tillerson said.
Trump and Putin agreed to explore a “framework” around which they can work to better understand these types of cyberthreats, the U.S. diplomat said.
“The two leaders agreed that this is a substantial hindrance on the ability of us to move Russian-U.S. relationships forward and agreed to exchange further work ?regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries,” Tillerson said. “So more work to be done in that regard.”
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in the meeting, said afterward that Trump accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia didn’t interfere in the election. But Tillerson, who has publicly called out Russia for election interference in the past, said he was ‘not dismissing the issue in any way’ and did not echo that language.
The secretary of state acknowledged that Putin’s insistence that Russia did not interfere would leave the two countries at an impasse, at least for now. “It’s not clear to me that we will ever come to some agreed-upon resolution of that question between the two nations,” he said.