WASHINGTON: The White House has called Russia a “cyber threat” but insisted that there is a need to have discussion with Moscow on shared interests.
“We recognise that Russia is a cyber threat, but we also recognise the need to have conversations with our adversaries,” Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an off-camera briefing.
“And when our adversaries see strength like they did with the President in the meeting, they can look for other ways to work on shared interests and look for positive places where they can move the ball forward. Particularly on things like the ceasefire, and that became a greater focus and something the President chose to stay focused on -- is that front,” she added.
Contradicting an earlier statement by U.S. President Donald Trump, Sanders said that sanctions related to Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections were discussed during Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of G20 summit in Hamburg.
“There were sanctions specific to election meddling that I believe were discussed, but not beyond that,” she said.
However, Sanders could not clarify as to whether Trump had accepted Putin’s denial of being involved in election meddling.
“Heard Putin’s denial and he (Trump) knew that, at the end of the day, the important part was them being able to have that conversation and him to directly ask him. He heard his answer and he moved forward with places he thought that he could work together,” she said.
Sanders also dismissed continuous media reports that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, saying the real collusion with a foreign power during the campaign was between the Democratic National Committee and Ukraine.
“If you are looking for an example of a campaign coordinating with foreign country or a foreign source, look no further than the DNC which actually coordinated opposition research with the Ukrainian embassy,” she said.
She added that the Democrats had a weak presidential candidate and were constantly looking for ways to undermine the President and delegitimize his election victory.
Defending President Trump's daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump for taking her father’s place at the heads of government meet at G-20, she said it’s pretty standard protocol that when the leader gets up, someone takes their seat.
She further said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel also pointed out that this was perfectly standard protocol.
“In fact, I think that we should be proud to have Ivanka sitting in that seat, considering particularly the topic at hand was part of her portfolio,” she said.
Ivanka Trump replaced her father at the heads of government meet at G-20 as President Trump had left for bilateral meets during the session.