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John Bolton Says Russia Refused Joint Statement Over Disagreements on Election Meddling

This morning, National Security Advisor John Bolton met with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, and among many important pieces of information released to the press, there were two particularly revealing moments.

Bolton held his presser separately from Patrushev because, he told reporters, because of a disagreement over what to talk about.

“We might have had a joint statement,” he said. “But I felt it was important to mention election meddling, which was raised a number of times during these consultations today which lasted a little bit over five hours, but we weren’t able to reach agreement on that so we decided to go ahead and we’ll each speak individually.”

That is not to say the issue of election meddling being brought up during their discussion became the sticking point, but rather that they couldn’t agree on whether to bring up election meddling during a press statement. Bolton wanted to, Patrushev did not.

This of course brings to mind President Trump‘s own joint presser with Vladimir Putin and the topic of interference in American elections came up. The President was widely criticized for seeming to accept Putin’s denial of any interference and for questioning our own intelligence agencies findings and conclusions. Bolton is a notorious critic of Russia, and infamous for his hard line stances with foreign powers generally. The fact that what he wanted to say about election meddling was not acceptable to Russia offers an insight into how he might have characterized the discussion even as his counterpart stood beside him.

As it was, he did answer several questions on the topic.

“I made it clear we wouldn’t tolerate meddling in 2018 and we were prepared to take necessary steps to prevent it from happening,” he told reporters. “We talked about it in a variety of ways.”

“I don’t want to understate how much progress we made in other areas, but in that area it was as I described,” he said.

Earlier in the day, in an interview with the AP in between sessions, Bolton said that Russia was not remotely open to his various attempts to discuss election meddling. “They didn’t respond at all,” he said.

“I’m going to make sure that they understand how strongly we feel about this,” he told the AP about his intention for the later session. “Tell them how firm the position of the U.S. is that there is no election meddling.”

As you can hear in the above clip after the close of all talks, that is apparently what he did.

The other perhaps revealing remark was when Bolton explained how the meeting today came about.

“This is something that the two presidents agreed in Helsinki, it was the one specific thing they agreed on that the two national security council staffs would carry on their discussions,” he said.

That is, that the only “specific” thing that Putin and Trump agreed to was that their staff would meet again later. In his earlier interview with the AP, Bolton characterized the agreement for the National Security Staffs to meet was the only “concrete” result of the summit.

Other topics discussed in the press conference included the Iran Deal, Syria, arms reduction, and the U.S. position toward the United Nations. The final question was asked by the BBC, and was about President Trump and his legal troubles with regard to Michael Cohen, which was not well-received by NSA Bolton.

Watch the clip above, via Youtube.

[Featured image via screengrab]

Follow Caleb Howe (@CalebHowe) on Twitter

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