Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested to Fox News’ Chris Wallace that President Donald Trump didn’t have time to bring up U.S. election interference in his 90-minute phone call Friday with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Pompeo was testy and appeared exasperated in the Sunday interview, saying he was “confused” when Wallace asked him why Trump didn’t raise the issue when he phoned Putin. Trump did have time to discuss what he referred to as the “Russian hoax,” referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia.
The president said he did not specifically speak to Putin about the Kremlin’s interference in the U.S. presidential election, which Mueller — backed by American intelligence findings — said was “sweeping and systematic.”
“Why doesn’t the president get tough with Putin about what everyone seems to agree is clear: meddling in 2016 and the threat of meddling in 2020?” Wallace asked Pompeo (see the video above beginning at 4:20).
The secretary of state said he talks to “leaders all the time,” adding, “Sometimes conversations just aren’t long enough to include every issue that might be brought up.” He accused Wallace of being “fixated on something that Robert Mueller wrote down.”
An annoyed Wallace responded: “I’m fixated on the president’s conversation with Vladimir Putin, and the fact that in a conversation he doesn’t even mention meddling in 2020. And the question I’m asking ― I think it’s a legitimate one, a lot of people are asking it, sir ― is, ‘Why not?’”
Pompeo said twice that Trump “has been tougher on Russia than any ... predecessor administrations” — even though the president frequently praises Putin, takes the Russian leader’s word over U.S. intelligence officials and criticizes sanctions against the nation. Pompeo said there’s “not time in the show to talk about all the things we’ve done” concerning Russia. He did manage to squeeze in one thing: the “largest defense buildup,” which is not necessarily directed at Russia. He also referred to “our new ...” but trailed off and didn’t complete his sentence, adding: “The list is long, Chris.”
He insisted that the administration is continuing to “make sure every election is as safe as it can possibly be.”