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Report: Trump administration moving to hand back shuttered Russia compounds

Russia probe growing

President Trump is reportedly considering handing back to Russia two compounds in New York and Maryland frequented by Russian diplomats that was shuttered by President Obama in response to reports of Russian hacking in the 2016 election.

According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration told Russian officials last month that it would consider handing the properties back over, if the Russians were to lift their freeze on construction of a new consulate in St. Petersburg, imposed back in 2014 in response to Obama-era sanctions related to Ukraine.

A senior adviser for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, RC Hammond, however says, "The U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements," and noted that the next senior-level meeting between the U.S. and Russia will be in June in St. Petersburg.

Obama ordered the closing of the compounds in December of 2016 as part of a raft of sanctions against the Russian government, as well as the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats who the U.S. said were actually spies.

The State Department confirmed that the 35 diplomats Mr. Obama ordered out had left the United States along with their family members.

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The U.S government believed that the two Cold War-era estates, often used as luxury retreats for Russian officials, were being used for intelligence activities.

The sanctions and ousting of the Russians, launched against Russia's intelligence entities, were actions taken in retaliation for the suspected election hacking, including that of the Democratic National Committee, during the lead up to the presidential election, in what one senior Obama administration official called a response to "a pattern of Russian behavior that has been evident for some time."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has since insisted that the Russian state has never engaged in hacking and scoffed at allegations that hackers could influence the outcome of elections in the US.

But the Russian leader admitted the possibility that some individual "patriotic" hackers could have mounted some attacks amid the current cold spell in Russia's relations with the West.

"I can imagine that some do it deliberately, staging a chain of attacks in such a way as to cast Russia as the origin of such an attack," Putin said. "Modern technologies allow that to be done quite easily."

The calls for the return of the compounds comes amid continuing questions over Russian interference in the election as well as brewing speculation over possible Trump associates that had knowledge of any meddling. 

The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas on Wednesday -- four related to the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election and three to the "unmasking" of Trump associates during the presidential transition.

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