Secretary of State Pompeo Spars with Senators at Testy Hearing

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

(From The Hill)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to tell lawmakers Wednesday what exactly President Trump discussed in private with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week in Helsinki, adding to tension and uncertainty on Capitol Hill over the administration’s Russia policy.

Pompeo’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee grew heated at times as he tangled with lawmakers over what the two leaders talked about during a one-on-one meeting that lasted about two hours with only translators present.

Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said at the top of the hearing that Congress had “little idea” of what agreements were reached in Helsinki “even though the president has already extended an invitation to Putin to come to Washington to discuss the ‘implementation’ of these undefined agreements.”
A top concern of senators on both sides of the aisle is whether Trump talked about relaxing sanctions on Russia, which could have bearing on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election.

Pompeo insisted that U.S. policy on Russia sanctions has not changed since Helsinki, but he refused to say whether Trump and Putin mulled the possibility of easing penalties Congress imposed last year in response to Russia’s election interference.

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