Russia is “not the enemy of the United States”, a US government official has said, denying allegations that Moscow was behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
US President Donald Trump said on Monday the hacking and subsequent release of private emails from the Democratic Party, as well as a leak of hacked emails from Mr Trump’s former campaign chairman, could be the work of the same country.
“We are not the enemy,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a Republican, said on Tuesday the US would be “absolutely not intimidated” by Russian aggression, warning that Russia could “not be trusted” with sensitive information.
Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, was seen on Tuesday visiting the US embassy in Washington, D.C., for a second time, this time as a foreign minister.
Mr Kislyak, a former KGB spy, has also spoken to US officials about his meeting with Mr Trump in the Oval Office.
Russian state media said on Wednesday that the US government’s refusal to grant Mr Kislyak permission to meet Mr Trump at the White House has been a “violation of international law”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met Mr Trump on Tuesday.
Mr Lavrov told reporters that the meeting between the two leaders was a “very positive experience”.
US intelligence officials have said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of the DNC to boost his own political ambitions, as part of an effort to undermine the US presidential race.
The CIA concluded in a report released last month that Russia was responsible for the DNC hacks.
Mr Tillerson told reporters on Monday that the Russians “don’t have any desire to see Donald Trump elected”.
“We have not had any contact whatsoever with Russian intelligence services, but we have been in constant contact with other nations in terms of the threat that we face from Russian intelligence,” he said.
US Senator John McCain, who is a Republican who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Russian claims were “a smokescreen for an agenda to undermine democracy and democracy-promoting policies”.
“If it turns out that there was no intent to destabilise the United State, then we would want to see that immediately,” he told reporters.
Mr McCain also warned that the Trump administration should investigate Russia’s “continued efforts to undermine democracies and democratic institutions in the world”.
He added that the Russian president had “done a great disservice” to the United Kingdom and the US by continuing to back Mr Trump and Mr Tillerson’s “lack of understanding of US foreign policy”.
Mr Tillerson, the first US secretary of state to visit Russia since Mr Putin was re-elected to the presidency in 2013, said Russia was not the “enemy of the US”.
The Russian foreign ministry has also said the Kremlin was not behind the DNC hack.
The Kremlin has said the attack was carried out by hackers based in Russia, not the US.
The US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he had “no knowledge” of the hacking.
Mr McFaul said he had spoken to Mr Putin’s envoy and was unaware of any evidence of Russian involvement in the attack.
“I think it’s fair to say that the U.S. has a pretty good picture of where the Russians are,” Mr McFork said.
“They’re very sophisticated, they’re very well funded, they have a lot of influence over the Russians, they’ve got a lot in common with them on a lot things.”
US senators and representatives from the House of Representatives have demanded a full and complete investigation into the DNC and Podesta emails, which were released by Wikileaks on Friday.
The House committee on Tuesday also subpoenaed emails from former US ambassador John Bolton, who worked closely with Mr Tillerson in the State Department during Mr Trump is presidency.
US officials have blamed the hacks on Russian intelligence, with Mr Flynn and Mr Kislyak having close ties to Russian officials.
The White House said Mr Tillerson had not discussed any intelligence matters with Mr Kislyak.