President Trump on Tuesday seemed receptive to the UK’s charge that Russia was behind the poisoning of a Russian mole employed by the Brits — but said he’d only condemn the country if he agreed with that conclusion once all the facts were in.
“Well it sounds to me, I’m speaking to Theresa May today. It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all of the evidence they have,” he said before leaving for a trip to California, referring to the British prime minister.
But the president also hedged, suggesting that British authorities were still investigating the sinister case.
“I don’t know if they’ve come to a conclusion, but she’s calling me today. It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact,” he said.
”As soon as we get the facts straight … if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.”
May charged Monday that Vladimir Putin’s Russia was behind the nerve agent attack that targeted Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Both remain in the hospital in critical but stable condition, and others were sickened as well.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said Monday that the US stood by its ally — but declined to respond to questions about Russian involvement.
Ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, used far tougher language to condemn the Russians before Trump canned him
“There is never a justification for this type of attack – the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil of a sovereign nation – and we are outraged that Russia appears to have again engaged in such behavior,” he said in a statement.
In the UK, British police on Tuesday cordoned off a parking lot ticket machine in the southwestern city of Salisbury as authorities retraced the steps of the Russian spy and his daughter who were targeted in the chemical weapons attack.
The machine near a shopping center in Salisbury, 90 miles southwest of London, was covered by a tent similar to those at other sites where Skripal and Yulia were seen during a March 4 excursion into the city.
A bench where the pair were found and markers for Skripal’s son and wife in a nearby graveyard are also beneath tents.
Authorities said father and daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent and that Russia was behind it.
May gave Putin until midnight on Tuesday to explain how the nerve agent developed by the former Soviet Union was used to poison the former double agent, who passed secrets to British intelligence.
Russia wants a sample of the nerve agent, a request the UK denied, according to foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, the state news agency RT reported.
“As soon as the rumors came up that the poisoning of Skripal involved a Russia-produced agent, which almost the entire English leadership has been fanning up, we sent an official request for access to this compound so that our experts could test it in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Lavrov said.
He insisted that Russia had nothing to do with the poisoning of Skripal and would help Britain in the investigation.
The president has been effusive in his praise of the Russian strongman, and has been reluctant to accept the conclusion of the US intelligence community that Russia meddled in the election to help him win.
With Post Wires