CNN's Jake Tapper pressed State Department spokesperson Marie Harf on the White House's seeming lack of response to Russian meddling in Ukrainian elections Friday on The Lead.
President Obama warned during his joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel against the Russian leadership meddling in the upcoming Ukrainian elections. "The Russian leadership must know if it continues to destabilize eastern Ukraine and disrupt this month’s presidential election, we will move quickly on additional steps, including further sanctions that will incur greater costs," he said.
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Tapper asked Harf if recent reports of Russian backed separatists clashing with the Ukrainian military would constitute "meddling."
Harf said "absolutely" but emphasized the majority of polling places are reportedly undisturbed by the rebels. However in an apparent break with President Obama's statement, Harf said the U.S. will not impose further sanctions unless Putin continues his destabilizing activities.
Tapper quickly shot back "President Obama said if there is meddling in the elections, there will be tougher sanctions. You just said that Russia has been meddling. Where are the tougher sanctions?"
The State Department spokeswoman again replied only 18 of the 200 polling places have been seen "disruption." "If we see this Russian meddling continuing, we'll look for costs. And I would look for them very soon after the election if that's the case," she said.
Undeterred, Tapper tried to get Harf to address his point one final time.
"I don't understand why you said if we see the meddling continuing there will be costs. Why are there not already costs? Putin and Russia have already crossed the red line that President Obama set earlier this month," he said.
Harf sidestepped again, telling Tapper the administration has previously levied sanctions on Russia and will wait to see if any further "meddling" continues before issuing additional costs.