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Trump claims he discussed election meddling with Russia's Lavrov

Pompeo addresses integrity of U.S. elections

President Trump claims he discussed election meddling with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their closed-door Oval Office meeting Tuesday, tweeting out a picture of him and the Russian official en route to a rally in Pennsylvania. Lavrov decried allegations of election meddling in 2016 as baseless during a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier in the day. 

"Just had a very good meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and representatives of Russia. Discussed many items including Trade, Iran, North Korea, INF Treaty, Nuclear Arms Control, and Election Meddling. Look forward to continuing our dialogue in the near future!" the president tweeted

Mr. Trump and Lavrov met in the Oval Office for roughly an hour, but that meeting did not open to the press and Lavrov did not answer shouted questions. Only White House photographers were allowed into the Oval Office to avoid repeating a 2017 instance when photos of a meeting between Mr. Trump and Lavrov taken by a Russian photographer emerged, a senior administration official said. 

Lavrov's visit follows a major announcement in Ukraine-related impeachment proceedings: House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment Tuesday against Mr. Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The foreign minister's visit also comes a day after the Justice Department's watchdog released a report saying the FBI was justified in opening a probe into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign for president. 

During the Pompeo-Lavrov press conference Tuesday, Lavrov demanded more evidence Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, to which Pompeo said there was no mistake what happened in 2016. Pompeo emphasized that he made it clear to Lavrov the U.S. will not tolerate election meddling. 

"I was clear — it's unacceptable," Pompeo said, adding the U.S. is ready to take action if necessary.

Mike Pompeo
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hold a joint news conference in the Franklin Room at the State Department on December 10, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Getty

Lavrov said the U.S. allegations of Russian interference were baseless, and demanded more documents, to which one Washington Post reporter asked, "Why not just read the Mueller report, it's very detailed when it comes to U.S. allegations related to meddling in the 2016 election?" 

Pompeo pushed back against Lavrov's demand for more documentation. 

"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," the secretary of state said. 

During the news conference, Pompeo called U.S.-Russia ties "complicated," but said the U.S. has been working to improve that relationship during the Trump administration. Pompeo said Ukraine — and the importance of Ukraine's sovereignty — was a "major" topic of conversation between the two.

On another topic, Lavrov brought up Paul Whelan, a U.S. national who has been detained in Russia for nearly a year, insisting Russia is abiding by all its own laws. Lavrov claimed Whelan is making "all kinds of arrogant accusations." 

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