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Pompeo: Crimea-related sanctions on Russia remain in place

"Presidents are entitled to have private meetings; I'm telling you what U.S. policy is here," Pompeo said. "The U.S. policy with respect to sanctions remains completely unchanged."

By Juliette Rocheleau, Medill News Service
Pompeo: Crimea-related sanctions on Russia remain in place
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to a question during testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea remain in place after President Donald Trump's Helsinki meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a congressional committee Wednesday.

The top U.S. diplomat testified Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which questioned the Trump administration's commitment to national security priorities in light of the summit.

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Senators questioned Pompeo about the substance of that meeting, which was private and involved only the two leaders and translators.

"All of us who are policy makers who deserve to know so that we can fashion policy accordingly," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said.

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Menendez questioned whether Trump and Putin discussed sanctions the United States implemented after Russia annexed the region following fighting with Ukraine. Pompeo skirted the question, citing the sensitive nature of the information not suitable to share in public.

"Presidents are entitled to have private meetings; I'm telling you what U.S. policy is here," Pompeo said. "The U.S. policy with respect to sanctions remains completely unchanged."

Pompeo announced a new memo from the Trump administration -- the Crimea Declaration -- that denounces Russia's actions on the Crimean peninsula.

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The committee also questioned Pompeo on Trump's meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore earlier this summer. The summit resulted in a joint statement from both leaders underlining the desire for a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said he worried the current administration was being "taken for a ride" by Kim in denuclearization talks.

"Fear not, senator," Pompeo said.

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Pompeo said he believes both administrations shared the same understanding of the summit. The secretary did not expand further.

"I came here to talk about American foreign policy today," Pompeo said. "I'm trying to stay out of the political circus."

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