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Bolton Warns Russia on Further Election Interference: ‘I Made It Clear We Wouldn’t Tolerate Meddling in 2018’

• August 23, 2018 11:05 am

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White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said he warned Russia against further election interference in 2018 during his meeting Thursday with counterpart Nikolai Patrushev.

"I made it clear that we wouldn't tolerate meddling in 2018 and that we were prepared to take necessary steps to prevent it from happening," he said at a press conference in Geneva. "We talked about it in a variety of ways in the area of cyber and information technology exchanges, which we had stopped between the United States and Russia earlier this year, and I said at this point, I didn't really see the circumstances were right to resume them again."

Bolton's meeting marked the first top-level summit between the two adversaries since President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met last month in Helsinki.

Bolton told the Associated Press in a separate interview he pressed Russian officials on election meddling, and they responded with stone faces. Russia's government has taken the official position it did not interfere in the 2016 election, but U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Kremlin ordered an extensive operation that involved cyber attacks, email hacks and social media trolling to disrupt the election process.

"I’m going to make sure that they understand how strongly we feel about this," Bolton said, and he added he would "tell them how firm the position of the U.S. is that there is no election meddling."

Bolton also said there wouldn't be any new sanctions placed on Russia if there was no further interference.

While the U.S. intelligence community has stated unequivocally Russia was involved, Trump has given mixed messages on the subject. At one point, he said "no one knows for sure" whether Russia was involved. In Helsinki, Trump said Putin's denial of the operation was "strong and powerful."

Bolton said he and Patrushev also discussed nuclear nonproliferation, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Afghanistan.

On Syria, Bolton said Russia and the U.S. shared the goal of getting Iran out of the country but there was no clear solution in sight.

Bolton, a frequent critic of the United Nations who served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under George W. Bush’s administration, also offered tough new language about the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council based in Geneva. The Trump administration pulled out of the 47-member body in June, accusing it of anti-Israel bias and of allowing countries with poor human rights records to be among its members.

In a new development, he also said the United States will cut funding for the U.N. human rights office, where former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is set to become the new High Commissioner for Human Rights next month.

"We are going to de-fund the Human Rights Council," Bolton said, while warning that other U.N. agencies could also be up for cuts in U.S. funding.

Bolton rejected claims by some U.N. officials who insist the council gets its funding through the regular U.N. budget — meaning that its operating expenses can’t be specifically targeted.

The United States pays about 22 percent of the U.N. budget as part of what’s known as an "assessment" based on economic weight and other factors.

Published under: 2016 Election, John Bolton, Russia