WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said Moscow wanted to publish a cache of communications with Washington that he said cleared Russia of allegations it interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, but that the United States has blocked their release.
During a joint news conference with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Lavrov once again dismissed the American accusation that Moscow tried to sway the 2016 election, which resulted in the upset victory of President Donald Trump.
“We suggested to our colleagues that in order to dispel all suspicions that are baseless: Let us publish this close channel of correspondence starting from October 2016 until November 2017 so it would all become very clear to many people,” Lavrov said through an interpreter at the news conference.
“However, regrettably, this administration refused to do so,” added Lavrov, who has begun his meeting with Trump at the White House. “We are prepared to do that, to publish the correspondence that took place.”
It was not immediately clear what communications Lavrov was referring to. He said Moscow “used the channels that existed” between Washington and Moscow at the time in 2016 with the Obama administration, and had got “zero response” when it appealed for an opportunity to directly discuss the allegations.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian state meddled in the election campaign, and a number of Russian citizens and entities were charged by then-U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Russia has long denied interfering in the run-up to the November 2016 election in which Republican Trump was the surprise winner against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Standing next to Lavrov at the news conference, Pompeo warned Moscow against interfering in next November’s U.S. election.
“I was clear it is unacceptable and I made our expectations of Russia clear. The Trump administration will always work to protect the integrity of our elections, period. Should Russia or any foreign actor take steps to undermine our democratic processes, we will take action in response,” he said.
Lavrov ignored shouted questions from reporters on whether Russia will interfere in the 2020 elections as he entered the White House.
On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department’s internal watchdog said that it found numerous errors but no evidence of political bias by the FBI when it opened an investigation into contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia in 2016.
Reporting by Humyera Pamuk and Makini Brice; Writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Grant McCool