Trump told Russian officials he wasn't concerned by interference

28 September 2019 - 12:01 By AFP
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. File photo
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. File photo
Image: REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

US President Donald Trump told Russia's foreign minister and ambassador that he was unconcerned about their country's interference in the 2016 elections, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Trump made the previously unreported comments during the same May 2017 Oval Office meeting in which he famously revealed highly classified information on the Islamic State group.

During the conversation he reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he was not bothered by their country's meddling because the United States did the same in other countries, according to three former officials who requested anonymity.

The meeting was held just one day after Trump fired his FBI director James Comey, and Trump told the two senior Russian officials that the sacking had relieved him of "great pressure."

The comments alarmed White House officials who subsequently restricted access to a memorandum describing the meeting to those with only the highest security access.

The revelation comes the same week a whistleblower report concerning a phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky rocked Washington.

The whistleblower has said a transcript of the phone call was placed into an ultra-secure system for highly classified information.

The transcript was of a conversation in which Trump urged Zelensky to investigate the son of Joe Biden, the US president's main Democratic rival.

It was unclear if documentation of Trump's meeting with the two Russian officials was put into the same system, according to the Post.

However, the New York Times reported late Friday that the White House separately put transcripts of Trump calls containing sensitive conversations with both his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and the Saudi Royal family in the same ultra-secure system.

The practice was put in place following leaks, such as that of Trump's Oval Office conversation with Lavrov and Kislyak.

Trump's relationship with Russia has come under intense scrutiny during his tenure in office.

The US leader has praised President Vladimir Putin and has appeared to accept his denials of US intelligence's finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to benefit Trump.

US intelligence and an investigation led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller has documented a broad effort by Russia to help Trump and damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. 

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