Arms control may come up as Trump meets Russia's Lavrov: White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Arms control, election security and national security are expected to be on the agenda on Tuesday when President Donald Trump meets Russia's top diplomat, whose last White House visit was a public relations disaster for the U.S. leader.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to see Trump after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks that are also expected to touch on whether to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty, set to expire in February 2021.

"We're absolutely expected to talk about arms control but also election security, for example, and national security," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in an interview on Fox Business Network of Trump's talks with Lavrov later on Tuesday.

The two meet as Democrats in the House of Representatives announced formal charges against Trump that accuse him of abusing power by pressuring Ukraine to probe a political rival and obstructing the Congress investigation into the scandal.

U.S.-Russian relations are strained by a host of issues, including U.S. allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which Moscow denies, as well as conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and arms control.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week offered the United States an extension on New START - which requires both nations to cut their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 - without preconditions or further discussion.

Lavrov last visited the White House in May 2017, a trip that triggered accusations by officials that Trump divulged highly classified information during that meeting about a planned operation by the Islamic State militant group. The allegations were denied by the White House.

Trump was also criticized for media reports that he told Russian officials that firing FBI Director James Comey had relieved him of "great pressure." Comey's dismissal ultimately led to a 22-month investigation by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The inquiry laid bare what Mueller and U.S. intelligence agencies have described as a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, denigrate 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and boost Trump, the Kremlin's preferred candidate. Russia has denied election interference.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chris Reese and Rosalba O'Brien)

12/10/2019 17:58

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