Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation at their meeting outside Moscow, April 16, 2012.
Photo by Alexei Nikolsky/Government Press Service/RIA-Novosti/AP

Tillerson wants Russians to address Russian election interference

Russia’s intervention in the American presidential election was arguably the basis for one of the most important political scandals in modern history. Indeed, it’s the subject of an ongoing counter-intelligence investigation, which includes an examination of whether members of Donald Trump’s political operation colluded with a foreign adversary’s illegal scheme.

It’s against this backdrop that ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a good question yesterday on “This Week,” ahead of Tillerson’s first trip to Russia as a member of Donald Trump’s cabinet. Here’s the full exchange from the transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well one of the big issues complicating that relationship of course is Russian interference in last year’s election – that’s the consensus view of all of our intelligence agencies. Is that on the agenda for you meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and what can you say to them? What will be the consequences if Russia tries something like that again?

TILLERSON: Well George, we’ve had previous conversations about it when I met with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Bonn, Germany on the margins of the G20. We will continue to talk with them about how this undermines any hope of improving relations, not just with the United States, but it’s – it’s pretty evident that they are taking similar tactics into electoral processes throughout Europe and so they’re really undermining any hope for improved relations with many European countries as well, so this is something that Russia needs to confront themselves and examine carefully how is this helping them achieve their longer term objectives.
It’s worth pausing to appreciate just how underwhelming this answer is. Asked about officials in Moscow intervening in foreign elections – in the United States and elsewhere – the Secretary of State, a longtime Vladimir Putin ally, concluded that “this is something that Russia needs to confront themselves.”

Tillerson’s point is effectively, “It’d be good if Russia didn’t do this.”

And while that may be true, it’s also clear that Russia isn’t “confronting” the issue of its foreign election meddling, instead concluding that it’s in Russia’s interest to continue its active measures.

On a related note, there were reports over the weekend that Tillerson’s meeting with Vladimir Putin, who once gave Tillerson the Russian Order of Friendship award, had been removed from the schedule. A Trump administration official said this morning, “There was never a Putin meeting on any schedule.”

That claim appears to be completely untrue: a schedule published last week showed Tillerson was supposed to meet the Russian president on Wednesday.

This reminded me of something MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell told Politico, in reference to Trump administration officials: “I’ve never seen anything like this. I have never seen anything like this where people just flat-out lie. You know, black is white and white is black, and they mislead you.”

Russia, State Department and Vladimir Putin

Tillerson wants Russians to address Russian election interference