The Trump administration is considering returning Russia's diplomatic compounds to Maryland and NY, five months after former President Barack Obama ordered them vacated and ejected dozens of Russian personnel as punishment for Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
"President Obama closed those two compounds because of Russia's attacks on our democracy", Perez said in a statement.
The U.S. intelligence community publicly concluded a week later that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directly ordered an influence campaign meant to sway the outcome of last year's White House contest in favor of Mr. Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. The Obama administration characterized the properties as such when it revoked Russian ownership in late December as part of broader sanctions related to the election meddling.
Maryland U.S. Sen. Chris van Hollen strongly condemned the move, saying in a statement, "The United States expelled Russian spies from these properties because of Russia's interference in our elections". That's why the report that President Donald Trump may reopen them was a bit shocking.
"This is a real bullying, bullying as it is, because labeling Russian ambassador a spy, who personally recruits USA politicians is insane".
WH aide Michael Dubke says his last day is TBD
Dubke was a late addition to Trump's administration, replacing Jason Miller, who served in Trump's presidential campaign. Just back from his nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, Trump dismissed recent reports as "fake news".
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the White House initially proposed an exchange in early April: The United States would potentially give Russian Federation back its compounds - one near New York City and one in Maryland - if Russian Federation would allow the U.S.to resume construction of its St. Petersburg consulate, halted in response to 2014 sanctions the US issued over Ukraine. "This is yet another red flag about the Trump administration's cozy relationship with the Kremlin".
R.C. Hammond, a senior adviser to Tillerson, told the Post that no agreements had been reached.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California took to social media to express bafflement that the Trump administration would even consider returning the compounds to Russian officials. After all, they were long believed to be used for intelligence/spying purposes.
Then-Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin at the time shamed the US for emptying the compound out during the holiday season.