Donald Trump’s secretary of state has warned Russia not to meddle in the 2020 US presidential election after face-to-face talks with Vladimir Putin. Mike Pompeo made the remarks while sitting alongside Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, at a joint press conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Mr Pompeo, who met with both Mr Putin, the Russian president, and Mr Lavrov during his visit, said: “Interference in American elections in unacceptable. “If Russia engaged in that in 2020, it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been. “I conveyed that there are things that Russia can do to demonstrate that these kinds of activities are a thing of the past. I hope that Russia takes advantage of those opportunities.” The comments were a marked contrast from Mr Trump’s decision not to blame Russia for 2016 election meddling when standing alongside Mr Putin at a Helsinki press conference last July. That triggered a backlash from the US intelligence leaders who had publicly blamed the Kremlin, leading eventually to Mr Trump walking back the remark. Mr Lavrov issued a lengthy rebuttal of America’s belief that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential race. “The facts show that those who are inflating this topic do not have any proof,” Mr Lavrov said, demanding “cold hard facts” to back up the claims. He added: “We want and we are ready to deal with cybersecurity issues along with our American partners, without any politicisation.” Mr Putin later said he hoped US-Russia relations could be restored now that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in election meddling is over. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, left, and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, in Sochi Credit: Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS “Since the start we have always said that this was complete nonsense, this could never happen,” Mr Putin said of claims the Kremlin conspired with the Trump campaign in 2016. Ever since the Mueller Report concluded there was no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the president, Mr Trump has attempted to put focus on the origins of the investigation. On Tuesday it emerged that the US Justice Department has assigned John Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, to examine whether there was any inappropriate activity in starting the inquiry. Mr Trump and his allies have claimed that the US justice and intelligence officials who opened the investigation before the 2016 election overstepped the mark. Mr Trump said he was not aware of the decision to appoint Mr Durham before it was reported.
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