President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin had a “very robust and lengthy exchange” on the subject of Russia interfering with the 2016 election, but eventually agreed the two countries should figure out a way to “move forward” from the issue, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters after the leaders’ first in-person meeting.
“The President pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement. As I think he has in the past,” Tillerson said. “The two leaders agreed, though, that this is a substantial hindrance on the ability of us to move Russian-U.S. relationships forward and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of non-interference, in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries. So more work to be done in that regard.”
The President apparently brought up the sanctions on Russia that have been discussed in Congress in recent weeks, but “focused” on talking about how to move on from the scandal, according to Tillerson, who sat in on the meeting.
“It’s not clear to me that we will ever come to some agreed upon resolution of that question between the two nations. So the question is, what do we do now? And I think the relationship, and the President made this clear as well, it’s too important. And it’s too important to not find a way to move forward. Not dismissing the issue in any way, and I don’t want to leave you with that impression,” Tillerson said.
He said the two Presidents agreed to continue discussing how to secure a commitment that the Russian government won’t interfere in U.S. affairs both now and in the future.
“(They discussed) how do we create a framework in which we have some capability to judge what is happening in the cyber world and who to hold accountable, and this is obviously an issue that’s broader than just U.S.-Russia, but it certainly, we see the manifestation of that threat in the events of last year so I think, again, the President’s rightly focused on how do we move forward from what may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point,” Tillerson said.