Washington: Vice President Mike Pence said he expects President Donald Trump to discuss Russian meddling in US elections, the Kremlin’s military incursions into Ukraine and Syria and other touchy subjects when he meets this summer with Vladimir Putin.
“There are a broad range of issues the president’s going to talk about that need to be addressed," Pence said in an interview with Bloomberg News aboard Air Force Two on Wednesday. They include the “economic relationship with the United States and Russia and countries of the world."
Asked whether those issues would include concerns over Russian interference in US elections, Pence said, “I think there will be a lot of stuff that comes up." Pressed again, he said, “He’s discussed that with President Putin before. I would anticipate that he will discuss that with him again."
The US intelligence community has concluded that Moscow attempted to influence the 2016 election that Trump won. The president has shown reluctance to accept that Russia played any role in the election and has forcefully rejected assertions that the Kremlin helped him win.
His campaign is under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for contacts with Russian figures and potential collusion with the Kremlin’s election activities. Mueller has indicted a St. Petersburg “troll farm" with connections to the Russian government for running a covert social media campaign to influence the election.
Trump has said he’s confronted Putin about Russia’s involvement in the election in previous meetings and the Russian leader has denied any meddling. However, the president has enacted new sanctions Congress ordered against Russia to punish the country for its election activities and hasn’t lifted sanctions put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
The president startled other Western leaders earlier this month when he said Russia should be re-admitted to the Group of Seven on the eve of its annual summit in Quebec. The country was expelled from the group of industrialized democracies after its aggression toward Ukraine and its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Pence declined in the interview to share his own view on whether Russia should be allowed back into the G-7. “Any opinion I have I’d share with the president," Pence said.