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Kremlin Echoes Trump's Assessment Of Bilateral Ties

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg on July 7.
U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg on July 7.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says the Kremlin agrees with President Donald Trump's statement that the U.S. "relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low."

"We fully share this opinion," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a regular conference call on August 4.

"The danger may lie in a deficit of interaction and cooperation in those matters which are vitally important for our two countries and peoples," he said.

Trump made the remark on Twitter on August 3.

He blamed the state of ties between Moscow and Washington on the U.S. Congress, which adopted a bill last week imposing new sanctions on Russia and preventing the president from easing the punitive measures without its consent.“You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!” Trump said in the tweet, referring to a defeat in the Senate for his plans for health-care legislation.

Trump signed the sanctions legislation -- which was passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress -- on August 2.

U.S. lawmakers said the legislation is a response to Russia's occupation and illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election that Trump won.

U.S. Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona), a prominent advocate of a tough stance toward Russia, took issue with Trump's assertion that Congress is to blame for the strained ties with Russia.

"Our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies," McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted on August 3.

The U.S. Justice Department and congressional panels are investigating alleged Russian interference and also seeking to determine whether there was any collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.

Trump's criticism of Congress came as several media outlets reported that Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury as part of the investigation. A grand jury is empowered to determine whether criminal charges should be filed in a matter, and it operates in secrecy. It is made up of ordinary citizens.

The U.S. intelligence community issued an assessment in January that Putin ordered an "influence campaign" targeting the U.S. election, with goals that included undermining trust in the U.S. electoral process, denigrating Clinton, and helping Trump. Russia denies meddling, despite what critics say is strong evidence, and Trump denies any collusion.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and RIA
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