Trump vows to 'counteract' any Russia election meddling
SAUL LOEB (AFP)
Donald Trump on Tuesday acknowledged that Russia and "other countries" meddled in the 2016 presidential election that brought him to power, but vowed to make sure it would not happen again.
"Certainly there was meddling and probably from other countries and maybe other individuals," said Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed evidence of Russia's covert campaign as "fake news."
Asked if he was worried it would happen again, Trump said "we'll counteract whatever they do. We'll counteract it very strongly," he said as the US heads to legislative votes this year and the next presidential election two years after that.
"We haven't been given credit... but we're working very hard on the '18 election and the '20," he said.
His statements came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said sanctions against Russia ordered by Congress would imposed in coming weeks.
In testimony before a House subcommittee, Mnuchin pushed back against the idea that Trump is trying to block the sanctions in response to Russia's meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, saying Trump is "fully supportive."
"We will implement them," Mnuchin said. "I expect in next several weeks we'll be going forward with sanctions on Russia."
Trump's vocal opposition to the package -- which entered into law earlier this year -- and his regular praise of Vladimir Putin has raised questions about whether the administration is dragging its feet, which has angered some lawmakers.
Several members of Trump's campaign have been charged or admitted to lying to the FBI about their contacts with Kremlin-linked officials accused of trying to sway the 2016 vote in Trump's favor.
Mnuchin assured the legislators that "in recent conversations with the president he is fully supportive of the work we are doing," and that the sanctions will be enforced.
At a separate hearing, Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, said he expects Treasury to announce the Russia sanctions "within a week."
Democratic representative Mike Quigley said the only step taken so far has been a "laughable report on Russian oligarchs," but Mnuchin said the classified report given to Congress detailed the efforts to design the package of penalties.
In its report, Treasury publicly identified more than 100 Russian officials and business leaders eligible for sanctions, a list derived from Forbes magazine, among other sources.
A senior administration official last month said the White House has warned governments around the world that they could face sanctions for "significant transactions" with the Russian military.
That includes NATO ally Turkey, which has publicly announced the purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense missile system, which is regarded as a challenge to US air superiority.
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