Trump adviser: Russian meddling 'incontrovertible'

A views of the four-story building known as the "troll factory" in St. Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. The U.S. government allege the Internet Research Agency started interfering as early as 2014 in U.S. politics, extending to the 2016 presidential election, saying the agency was funded by a St. Petersburg businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. (AP Photo/Naira Davlashyan)
Herbert Raymond McMaster, U.S. National Security Advisor speaks at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)
In this pool photo taken on Monday, Sept. 20, 2010, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, second right, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, around his Concord Catering factory which produces school lunches, outside St. Petersburg, Russia. One of those indicted in the Russia probe is a businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin is an entrepreneur from St. Petersburg who's been dubbed "Putin's chef" by Russian media. His restaurants and catering businesses have hosted the Kremlin leader's dinners with foreign dignitaries. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
President Donald Trump gestures to the media as he leaves the White House, Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Washington, for a trip to his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, speaks at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)

MUNICH — President Donald Trump's national security adviser said Saturday there was "incontrovertible" evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election, a blunt statement that shows how significantly the new criminal charges leveled by an American investigator have upended the political debate over his inquiry.

The statement by H.R. McMaster at the Munich Security Conference stood in stark contrast to Trump's oft repeated claim that Russian interference in his election victory was a hoax.

"As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain," McMaster told a Russian delegate to the conference.

The detailed document presented the most compelling public evidence to date that the Russian operation was elaborate, expensive and real. Citing emails and conversations by the perpetrators of the plot, it also demonstrated that the ongoing probe may have access to explosive intelligence material gathered on the Russian operations.

McMaster also noted that special counsel Robert Mueller's team had shown that the U.S. was becoming "more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion."

Just minutes before, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had dismissed the indictment as "just blabber."

"I have no response," Lavrov said when asked for comment on the allegations. "You can publish anything, and we see those indictments multiplying, the statements multiplying."

But Lavrov did not say what he specifically disputed in the indictment.

Trump tweeted late Saturday that McMaster's mention of Russian election meddling forgot to include that the election results were not changed by the Russians efforts. And he said McMaster should have noted the only collusion was between Russia, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Trump frequently has tried to turn the tables on who tried to work closely with Russians.

McMaster and Lavrov addressed the annual conference of world leaders, defense officials and diplomats, giving more general back-to-back opening remarks. But both were immediately hit with questions about the U.S. indictment and the broader issue of cyberattacks.

In Russia, news of the indictment was met with more scorn.

"There are no official claims, there is no proof for this. That's why they are just children's statements," Andrei Kutskikh, the presidential envoy for international information security, told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

McMaster also scoffed at the suggestion that the U.S. would work with Russia on cyber security issues.

"I'm surprised there are any Russian cyber experts available based on how active most of them have been undermining our democracies in the West," he said to laughter. "So I would just say that we would love to have a cyber dialogue when Russia is sincere."

Lavrov argued that U.S. officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, have said no country influenced the U.S. election results.

"Until we see the facts, everything else is just blabber. I'm sorry for this not very diplomatic expression," Lavrov said.

The indictment charged 13 Russians with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign combined with on-the-ground politicking aimed in part at helping Trump defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

It outlined the first criminal charges against Russians believed to have secretly worked to influence the U.S. election's outcome.

According to the indictment, the Russian organization was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy St. Petersburg businessman with ties to the Russian government and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lavrov denounced "this irrational myth about this global Russian threat, traces of which are found everywhere — from Brexit to the Catalan referendum."

Russia's former ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, similarly dismissed the detailed allegations contained in the indictment as "simply fantasies." Kislyak's name has come up in the FBI and congressional investigations of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Pressed on the election interference that is alleged to have occurred while he was Russia's envoy to Washington, Kislyak said, "I'm not sure I can trust American law enforcement to be the most precise and truthful source of information about what Russians know."

"I have never done anything of this sort, no one in my embassy did," he said during a panel discussion at the Munich conference. "So whatever allegations are being mounted against us are simply fantasies that are being used for political reasons inside the United States in the fight between different sides of the political divide."

Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak before Trump's inauguration.

In Russia, one of the 13 people indicted said the U.S. justice system is unfair.

Mikhail Burchik was quoted Saturday by the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda as saying that "I am very surprised that, in the opinion of the Washington court, several Russian people interfered in the elections in the United States. I do not know how the Americans came to this decision."

Burchik was identified in the indictment as executive director of an organization accused of sowing propaganda on social media to try to interfere with the 2016 election.

He was quoted as saying the Amercians "have one-sided justice, and it turns out that you can hang the blame on anyone."

_____

Butler reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Munich, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

People also read these

Exhibition charts 500 years of evolution of robots

Feb 7, 2017

Inspired by his belief that human beings are terrified of robots, Ben Russell set out to chart the...

Collector's hidden art to be shown in...

Feb 15, 2017

A vast trove of art which a German collector kept hidden from the world for decades will be shown...

London Fashion Week opens amid Brexit...

Feb 17, 2017

Models and fashion editors descended on Britain's capital from a snowy New York for the start of...

Dresses that tell a story: Princess Diana's life...

Feb 22, 2017

It's been 20 years since Diana died in a Paris car crash at the age of 36, but the public's...

Leicester team on defensive breaking silence on...

Feb 25, 2017

Two days after Claudio Ranieri's firing, Leicester players went on the defensive to insist they...

About Us

Kayak Away aims to bring the latest news, techniques, destinations, and stories that inspire you to get on the water. We are all here together to share all the awesome tips and tricks to kayak.

Contact us: sales[at]kayakaway.com

Subscribe Now!