(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump Tuesday voiced strong support for British Prime Minister Theresa May a day after she alleged Russia was responsible for the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom earlier this month against a former Russian spy.
“It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all of the evidence they have,” the president asserted as left the White House Tuesday for a trip to California. “It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia, and I would certainly take that finding as fact.”
Trump indicated he would be able to come to a more definitive conclusion after speaking with May later Tuesday.
“I’m speaking to Theresa May today,” adding, “As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.”
On Monday, May delivered a strong assessment condemning the Kremlin for the attack based on mounting evidence, including Russia’s previous production of the agent and “record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations.”
“The Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” the prime minister said. “Our commitment to collective defense and security through NATO remains as strong as ever in the face of Russian behavior.”
Trump’s comments went much further than the White House was willing to say up until now. When asked Monday whether the White House backed May’s comments, press secretary Sarah Sanders did not blame Russia in any way or even mention Russia by name.
“The use of a highly lethal nerve agent against U.K. citizens on U.K. soil is an outrage,” Sanders said Monday. “The attack was reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible. We offer the fullest condemnation, and we extend our sympathy to the victims and their families and our support to the UK government.”
Before he was fired Tuesday, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson broke with the White House’s response on Russia Monday night, releasing his own tough statement calling Russia “an irresponsible force of instability in the world.”
“We have full confidence in the UK’s investigation and its assessment that Russia was likely responsible,” he said in a pointed statement.
Those responsible, he says, “must face appropriately serious consequences.”
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