WASHINGTON — White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday President Donald Trump did discuss sanctions related to Russian election meddling when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, directly contradicting what the President said a day earlier.
“I do know that it was mentioned, specifically,” Sanders said at an off-camera briefing with reporters. “There were sanctions specific to election meddling that I believe were discussed, but not beyond that.”
Asked if Trump’s view of sanctions against Russia changed after he met with Putin, Sanders said, “Not that I am aware of.”
Her statement contradicts what Trump tweeted the day before, when he said sanctions were not discussed during his two-hour meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Germany Friday.
“Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved!”
“My understanding is the President’s tweet was referencing sanctions regarding Ukraine and Syria. My comment was on sanctions regarding election meddling,” Sanders said later, when asked for clarification.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the only other US official in the room for the meeting, said Trump told Putin how members of Congress were pushing for additional sanctions against Russia over the election issue.
“But I think what the two presidents, I think rightly, focused on is, how do we move forward? How do we move forward from here?” Tillerson said Monday during a separate briefing with reporters.
Then-President Barack Obama sanctioned four Russian individuals and five Russian entities in January for their efforts to influence the 2016 election. His administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the United States and closed two Russian compounds it said were used for Russian intelligence activities.