May 14, 2019 – The Trump administration withholds information that could debunk Russian interference claims

In Email Timeline Post-Election 2016, Email/Dossier Investigations, Featured Timeline Entries by Katie Weddington

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (l) meets with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov in Sochi on May 14, 2019. (Credit: mid.ru)

“On Tuesday Russia’s President Putin again rejected U.S. claims that his country interfered in the 2016 elections in the United States. Additional statements by Foreign Minister Lavrov provide that there is more information available about alleged Russian cyber issue during the election. He pointed to exchanges between the Russian and U.S. governments that Russia wants published but which the U.S. is withholding.

On Tuesday May 14 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Sochi to meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov and with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. It was Pompeo’s first official visit to Russia. Pompeo’s meeting with Lavrov was followed by a joined news conference. The statements from both sides touched on the election issue.

The State Department published a full transcript and video of the press conferencein English language. The Russian Foreign Ministry provided an official English translation of only Lavrov’s part.  Both translations differ only slightly.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the opening statements with regard to cyber issues.

Lavrov:

We agreed on the importance of restoring communications channels that have been suspended lately, which was due in no small part to the groundless accusations against Russia of trying to meddle in the US election. These allegations went as far as to suggest that we colluded in some way with high-ranking officials from the current US administration. It is clear that allegations of this kind are completely false. […] I think that there is a fundamental understanding on this matter as discussed by our presidents during their meeting last year in Helsinki, as well as during a number of telephone conversations. So far these understandings have not been fully implemented.

Pompeo:

We spoke, too, about the question of interference in our domestic affairs. I conveyed that there are things that Russia can do to demonstrate that these types of activities are a thing of the past and I hope that Russia will take advantage of those opportunities.

Lavrov responded first to the question. He said that there is no evidence that shows any Russian interference in the U.S. elections. He continued:

Speaking about the most recent US presidential campaign in particular, we have had in place an information exchange channel about potential unintended risks arising in cyberspace since 2013. From October 2016 (when the US Democratic Administration first raised this issue) until January 2017 (before Donald Trump’s inauguration), this channel was used to handle requests and responses. Not so long ago, when the attacks on Russia in connection with the alleged interference in the elections reached their high point, we proposed publishing this exchange of messages between these two entities, which engage in staving off cyberspace incidents. I reminded Mr Pompeo about this today. The administration, now led by President Trump, refused to do so. I’m not sure who was behind this decision, but the idea to publish this data was blocked by the United States. However, we believe that publishing it would remove many currently circulating fabrications. Of course, we will not unilaterally make these exchanges public, but I would still like to make this fact known.

The communication channel about cyber issues did indeed exist. In June 2013 the Presidents of the United States and Russia issued a Joint Statement about “Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)”. The parties agreed to establishing communication channels between each other computer emergency response teams, to use the direct communication link of the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers for cyber issue exchanges, and to have direct communication links between high-level officials in the White House and Kremlin for such matter. A Fact Sheet published by the Obama White House detailed the implementation of these three channels.” (Read more: Moon of Alabama, 5/19/2019)