US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday he believes that Russia will try to undermine democracies around the world for the foreseeable future.
"I have great confidence that the Russians will try and undermine western democracy in 2017, 2018, 2019 and for an awfully long time," Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News.
"It is our responsibility as leaders of United States government to do all that we can to deter them from interfering with us, not only in our elections, but more broadly as well."
Pompeo's comments came just days after President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin one-on-one in Helsinki. Trump provoked furor in Washington when, standing beside Putin at a news conference, he declined to endorse the assessment from the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
The next day, Trump told reporters that he had misspoken.
Putin has been invited by Trump to the White House later this year, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also said Thursday.
"The President understands what Russia did in our elections of 2016, and he has empowered each of us to make sure that it doesn't happen again in the 2018 or 2020 elections here in the United States as well," said Pompeo, who served as CIA director before he moved to his current role earlier this year.
He said the problem is one that dates back to the Soviet era, adding he believes some are now trying to make it a partisan issue.
"It wasn't just the 2016 election. Somehow America seems to forget the history of Russia's efforts to undermine western democracy for decades now," Pompeo said.
Pompeo also said that Washington would not entertain the idea of allowing Putin's team to question or have physical custody of a group of prominent Americans Putin says conducted illegal activities in Russia, allegations that Washington strongly denies. The secretary's denial came a day after Sanders, the White House press secretary, indicated that no final decision had been made.
Among those Putin wants to question is former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, a noted critic of the Russian President, and American-born financier Bill Browder, who successfully lobbied the US government to impose new sanctions on Russia.
Pompeo also called allegations that Putin has dirt on Trump "absurd."
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