WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday the Trump administration will not tolerate Russian interference in the 2018 congressional midterm elections.
Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the administration will take "appropriate countermeasures" to fight what he called "continued efforts" by Russia to meddle in November's vote. He did not elaborate on the Russian interference or say what the countermeasures would be but said there was much more work to be done to stop Russia's efforts.
He said the U.S. had not yet been able to establish "effective deterrence" to halt them.
The top-ranking Democrat on the committee, Eliot Engel, however, contended that the Trump administration "is giving Russia a pass" because Russian President Vladimir Putin "supported President Trump over Hillary Clinton" in the 2016 presidential election.
"If we allow foreign interference in our elections so long as it supports our political objectives, then we've put party before country and put our democracy in crisis," Engel said.
Russian meddling in the presidential election remains a touchy topic for President Donald Trump, as the White House tries to combat the threat posed by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump denies there was any collusion.
Pompeo was making his first congressional appearance since becoming top diplomat nearly a month ago, after Trump fired his predecessor, Rex Tillerson.
Pompeo was testifying on the State Department's budget, operations and policy priorities, but was asked about a wide range of issues, ranging from diplomacy with North Korea, the pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, and Russia.
"We will not tolerate Russian interference in the 2018 elections," he told lawmakers. "We will take appropriate countermeasures to continued Russian efforts."
He defended the Trump administration's "enormous efforts to push back against Russia," which he claimed were "light-years better than what was done in the previous administration."
Matthew Lee, The Associated Press