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McConnell warns Trump: Don’t lift Russia sanctions

McConnell warns Trump: Don’t lift Russia sanctions
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' MORE (R-Ky.) is urging President Trump to steer clear of providing sanctions relief to Russia.

Trump was noncommittal earlier that day when asked whether he would ease sanctions against Russia in light of his planned conversation Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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“I’m against lifting any sanctions on the Russians,” McConnell told Politico. "If there’s any country in the world that doesn’t deserve sanctions relief, it’s Russia.

“These sanctions were imposed because of their behavior in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and now we know they’ve been messing around in our elections as well."

McConnell declined to comment, however, on whether he would support Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainComey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate Is there difference between good and bad online election targeting? MORE’s (R-Ariz.) idea of codifying existing sanctions against Russia into law. He was also hesitant to endorse adding new sanctions.

“I think the first step is to make sure we don’t undo — either legislatively or through the executive branch — any of the existing sanctions,” McConnell said. “And we’ll talk about new ones in the future.”

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway on Friday morning said the new president was mulling sanctions relief for Russia before speaking with Putin.

“All of that is under consideration,” Conway said of Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” when asked if removing sanctions against Russia is on the table.

Trump demurred, however, when asked about easing the sanctions during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“I have a call set up,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. As far as sanctions, it’s still very early to be talking about that.”

“If we can have a great relationship with Russia and China and with all countries, I’m all for that,” Trump added.

Trump’s remarks differed from May’s, who said the U.K. believes “sanctions should continue” against Russia.

The U.S. and European Union have imposed sanctions against Russia for its 2014 military intervention in Ukraine.

Former President Obama, meanwhile, levied additional sanctions last month in retaliation for Russia's attempt to interfere in the presidential election.

Trump has repeatedly downplayed Moscow’s meddling in his White House win, portraying intelligence reports about it as an effort to delegitimize him.

This story was updated at 5:05 p.m.