WASHINGTON — The Trump administration issued a declaration Wednesday ruling out the possibility of the United States recognizing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, a move aimed at tempering growing bipartisan concern over the president’s dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The declaration, released just before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to appear before a Senate committee, comes as lawmakers raise questions about what President Donald Trump said to Putin during their longer-than-expected two-hour meeting in Helsinki last week.
“The United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Questions emerged about the administration’s Crimea policy after Trump said he would discuss the issue with Putin and acknowledged Russian investment in Crimea following its annexation.
“They’ve spent a lot of money on rebuilding it,” Trump said on June 9.
In issuing the statement, U.S. officials are continuing an effort to clarify or in some cases walk back a series of remarks by the president related to Russia policy, including the president’s remarks at a press conference with Putin doubting the assessment of his own intelligence officials.
U.S. officials now say the president supports the U.S. intelligence community’s view that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and that he misspoke while in Helsinki.
Democrats in Congress have unleashed a torrent of criticism, going so far as calling Trump’s press conference “treasonous,” and placing a rare demand for the president’s interpreter to testify before Congress about what was said between him and Putin.
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Republicans, meanwhile, have warned the president against inviting Putin to the White House in the fall - a possibility that emerged last week when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that “discussions are already underway” to set up another meeting between the two leaders.
Pompeo is set to be grilled on a range of questions related to Russia and North Korea during a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday afternoon.