US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Russia of trying to undermine Western democracies for decades and said it will continue for the foreseeable future, citing the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election as an example.
"I have great confidence that the Russians will try and undermine western democracy in 2017, 2018, 2019 and for an awfully long time," Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday.
"It is our responsibility as leaders of United States government to do all that we can to deter them from interfering with us, not only in our elections, but more broadly as well," he added.
Pompeo’s comments came days after US President Donald Trump met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the Finnish capital of Helsinki and sparked furor at a joint presser by declining to endorse the US intelligence community’s assessment of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump told reporters later in Washington that he had misspoken.
"The President understands what Russia did in our elections of 2016, and he has empowered each of us to make sure that it doesn't happen again in the 2018 or 2020 elections here in the United States as well," said Pompeo, who used to serve as CIA director.
"It wasn't just the 2016 election. Somehow America seems to forget the history of Russia's efforts to undermine western democracy for decades now," he noted.
The top US diplomat also threw his support behind Trump’s comments in the Helsinki summit and said he believes some are now trying to “make a partisan case out of this.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced on Thursday that Putin has been invited by Trump to Washington for a second summit later this year.
The invitation is expected to boost anti-Trump sentiment among Republican and Democratic Party lawmakers as the US president implicitly agreed in Helsinki to cooperate with Moscow on the interrogation of American officials in regard to Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Putin had earlier offered to allow the team of US Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller — who is conducting a probe of those allegations — to travel to Russia to question the 12 Russians recently indicted in the case.
Mueller, a former FBI director, has been running a high-profile investigation into allegations that Trump won the 2016 presidential election against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton partly because Moscow had rigged the election in his favor.
US intelligence agencies claim Russia-linked hackers provided WikiLeaks with damaging information -- in the form of thousands of hacked emails -- about Clinton to skew the presidential election in favor of Trump.
Trump has repeatedly denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and has condemned the investigations.
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