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Trump put failed cybersecurity partnership ball in Russia’s court

FILE - In this Friday, July 7, 2017, file photo U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

LISTEN: Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President

PHOENIX — President Donald Trump put the proverbial ball in Russia’s court during failed discussions over a cybersecurity partnership between the two nations, a top adviser said.

“We want to collaborate, if possible, but the president is a pragmatist so we bring these issues up, we put the ball in the Kremlin’s court but, at the end of the day, if these things aren’t possible, they’re not possible,” Sebastian Gorka told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Monday.

Gorka said Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the possible partnership during a meeting that stretched more than two hours during last week’s G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted the partnership would not happen.

The possible deal between the U.S. and Russia was discussed shortly after Trump spoke with Putin about alleged interference by Russian hackers during last year’s elections.

“The president brought that up several times,” Gorka said.

Trump said he broached the issue at least twice and called for his country to work closely with Russia moving forward.

However, the president has not taken a firm stance on Russian hacking.

Trump has said he thinks Russia probably hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton staffers, but that “other people and/or countries” were likely involved as well. He said ahead of the meeting that, “Nobody knows for sure.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov first told reporters in Germany on Friday that Trump had accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia hadn’t meddled — an assertion Putin repeated Saturday after the Group of 20 summit. Putin said he left the meeting thinking that his American counterpart had believed his in-person denials.

“He asked questions, I replied. It seemed to me that he was satisfied with the answers,” Putin said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not answer directly when asked Sunday if Trump had accepted Putin’s denial, but told reporters in Ukraine that Trump’s conversation with Putin on election interference went “about the way we expected.” Tillerson was the only other American official in the room.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also declined to say whether the president accepted Putin’s denial.

“Why would President Trump broadcast exactly what he said in the meeting? Strategically, that makes no sense,” Mnuchin said. “He’s made it very clear how he feels. He’s made it very clear that he addressed it straight on.”

But White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus took issue with Putin’s characterization.

“The president absolutely didn’t believe the denial of President Putin,” Priebus said. He said Trump had spent a “large part of the meeting on the subject,” but wanted to move on to other subjects.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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