Trump warned Russia's foreign minister against election interference, White House says

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov against “any Russian attempts to interfere in United States elections” during an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday, according to the White House.

Trump also urged Moscow to “resolve the conflict with Ukraine,” the White House said, referring to Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Trump tweeted a photo of he and Lavrov standing behind the Resolute Desk, writing that the two had "a very good meeting."

But Lavrov told reporters Tuesday evening that he did not discuss election meddling with Trump during his hour at the White House, raising questions about the substance of the meeting. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump’s meeting with Lavrov on Tuesday at the White House was closed to press. It was the Russian diplomat’s first official visit to Washington since 2017, and his second Oval Office meeting with Trump.

Trump’s meeting with Lavrov came after the Russian foreign minister held a meeting and press conference with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' Overnight Defense: Trump downplays troops' concussion injuries in Iran attack | Dems offer case against Trump on day two of trial | UN links Saudis to hack of Bezos' phone Pompeo willing to testify in impeachment trial if 'legally required' MORE. The White House said Pompeo also met with Trump and Lavrov in the Oval Office and briefed him on their discussion about the state of the bilateral relationship.

Pompeo clashed with Lavrov at the press conference earlier Tuesday, saying he warned Lavrov that Russia’s election interference was “unacceptable” and that the U.S. was prepared to respond if it happens in the next election.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mr. Lavrov pushed back, accusing Washington of being overcome by “waves of suspicion” and describing allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections as baseless.

Trump has at times expressed doubts over the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian interfered in the 2016 election in order to help his presidential campaign, notably doing so alongside Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinA new era in Russia will allow America to rethink its policy US officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  No patriotic poll bump for Trump, but Soleimani strike may still help him politically MORE during a summit in Helsinki in July 2018.

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE concluded an investigation into Russian interference earlier this year, finding insufficient evidence to charge any associates of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election.

Mueller’s report noted that Trump’s campaign welcomed and expected to benefit from Russian efforts to interfere in the vote, however.

The meeting between Trump and Lavrov touched on a number of subjects, including arms control, according to the readout; the White House said Trump “emphasized his support for effective global arms control that includes not only Russia, but also China.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The two also discussed Iran and efforts to denuclearize North Korea, as well as trade and relations with China.

“President Trump welcomed continued engagement with Russia to address areas of mutual concern, including how the United States and Russia can take positive steps with respect to detained citizens,” the White House said.

Trump has often expressed interest in improving relations between Washington and Moscow, however tensions between the two countries have run high over a variety of issues, including Russia’s election interference and disagreements over arms control.

The Trump administration formally withdrew from the Soviet-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty after years of Russian violations of the pact.

Tuesday’s meeting was also expected to focus on discussions about whether to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty, which is slated to expire in 2021. 

—Brett Samuels contributed. Updated at 6 p.m.