The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that it agrees with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's preliminary report that the recent presidential election in Russia was not free and had restrictions that made it unfair.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert, when asked by reporters at a press conference, said it was not surprising that Russian President Vladimir Putin won reelection because of the "clampdown" on many freedoms in Russia.
Recent Stories in National Security
Nauert cited a preliminary report from OSCE observers who had serious concerns about how fair the election was.
"We have no reason to doubt that the report's conclusions are incorrect. We have every reason to believe the conclusions are correct," Nauert said.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked how that conclusion squares with a phone call President Donald Trump had with Putin after the election. He pointed out Trump had "congratulated" the former KGB agent, a decision some sharply criticized on Tuesday.
Nauert said the call and comment was "protocol," pointing to similar calls from other Western leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron.
She also reminded the media that while the United States does not agree with the way in which the Russian election was carried out, it was necessary for the leaders of two of the world's most powerful countries to be able to talk to one another.
"But the reality is that we are two nuclear powers, two superpowers in this world and we still have to be able to pick up the phone and have a dialogue and conversation with one another," Nauert said.
Lee continued to press on why it was necessary to make such a call, referencing times the U.S. president has likely not called leaders of countries after similarly unfair or corrupt elections. Nauert again reminded Lee that other world leaders friendly with the United States similarly contacted Putin after his reelection.