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Trump Advisor:Meddling Incontrovertible02/18 11:27

   President Donald Trump's national security adviser said Saturday there was 
"incontrovertible" evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 U.S. 
election, a blunt statement that shows how significantly the new criminal 
charges leveled by an American investigator have upended the political debate 
over his inquiry.

   MUNICH (AP) -- President Donald Trump's national security adviser said 
Saturday there was "incontrovertible" evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 
2016 U.S. election, a blunt statement that shows how significantly the new 
criminal charges leveled by an American investigator have upended the political 
debate over his inquiry.

   The statement by H.R. McMaster at the Munich Security Conference stood in 
stark contrast to Trump's oft repeated claim that Russian interference in his 
election victory was a hoax.

   "As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really 
incontrovertible and available in the public domain," McMaster told a Russian 
delegate to the conference.

   The detailed document presented the most compelling public evidence to date 
that the Russian operation was elaborate, expensive and real. Citing emails and 
conversations by the perpetrators of the plot, it also demonstrated that the 
ongoing probe may have access to explosive intelligence material gathered on 
the Russian operations.

   McMaster also noted that special counsel Robert Mueller's team had shown 
that the U.S. was becoming "more and more adept at tracing the origins of this 
espionage and subversion."

   Just minutes before, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had dismissed 
the indictment as "just blabber."

   "I have no response," Lavrov said when asked for comment on the allegations. 
"You can publish anything, and we see those indictments multiplying, the 
statements multiplying."

   But Lavrov did not say what he specifically disputed in the indictment.

   Trump tweeted late Saturday that McMaster's mention of Russian election 
meddling forgot to include that the election results were not changed by the 
Russians efforts. And he said McMaster should have noted the only collusion was 
between Russia, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Trump 
frequently has tried to turn the tables on who tried to work closely with 
Russians.

   McMaster and Lavrov addressed the annual conference of world leaders, 
defense officials and diplomats, giving more general back-to-back opening 
remarks. But both were immediately hit with questions about the U.S. indictment 
and the broader issue of cyberattacks.

   In Russia, news of the indictment was met with more scorn.

   "There are no official claims, there is no proof for this. That's why they 
are just children's statements," Andrei Kutskikh, the presidential envoy for 
international information security, told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

   McMaster also scoffed at the suggestion that the U.S. would work with Russia 
on cyber security issues.

   "I'm surprised there are any Russian cyber experts available based on how 
active most of them have been undermining our democracies in the West," he said 
to laughter. "So I would just say that we would love to have a cyber dialogue 
when Russia is sincere."

   Lavrov argued that U.S. officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, have 
said no country influenced the U.S. election results.

   "Until we see the facts, everything else is just blabber. I'm sorry for this 
not very diplomatic expression," Lavrov said.

   The indictment charged 13 Russians with running a huge but hidden social 
media trolling campaign combined with on-the-ground politicking aimed in part 
at helping Trump defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

   It outlined the first criminal charges against Russians believed to have 
secretly worked to influence the U.S. election's outcome.

   According to the indictment, the Russian organization was funded by Yevgeny 
Prigozhin, a wealthy St. Petersburg businessman with ties to the Russian 
government and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

   Lavrov denounced "this irrational myth about this global Russian threat, 
traces of which are found everywhere --- from Brexit to the Catalan referendum."

   Russia's former ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, similarly 
dismissed the detailed allegations contained in the indictment as "simply 
fantasies." Kislyak's name has come up in the FBI and congressional 
investigations of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

   Pressed on the election interference that is alleged to have occurred while 
he was Russia's envoy to Washington, Kislyak said, "I'm not sure I can trust 
American law enforcement to be the most precise and truthful source of 
information about what Russians know."

   "I have never done anything of this sort, no one in my embassy did," he said 
during a panel discussion at the Munich conference. "So whatever allegations 
are being mounted against us are simply fantasies that are being used for 
political reasons inside the United States in the fight between different sides 
of the political divide."

   Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty in 
December to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak before 
Trump's inauguration.

   In Russia, one of the 13 people indicted said the U.S. justice system is 
unfair.

   Mikhail Burchik was quoted Saturday by the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda as 
saying that "I am very surprised that, in the opinion of the Washington court, 
several Russian people interfered in the elections in the United States. I do 
not know how the Americans came to this decision."

   Burchik was identified in the indictment as executive director of an 
organization accused of sowing propaganda on social media to try to interfere 
with the 2016 election.

   He was quoted as saying the Amercians "have one-sided justice, and it turns 
out that you can hang the blame on anyone."


(KA)

 
 
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