Last December, former President Barack Obama gave Russia 24 hours to vacate diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland and expelled 35 Russians he called "intelligence operatives" as punishment for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and now, the Trump administration is moving to return those compounds to Russia, The Washington Post reports.
Russia has asserted it used the facilities, which had diplomatic immunity, to hold events and as a place of relaxation for United Nations and embassy employees, but for decades the U.S. has believed the compounds are also used for spying. People with information on the matter told the Post that last month, the Trump administration told Russia it would consider turning the properties back over to Russia if Moscow agreed to lift a freeze on the construction of a new U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. During a meeting a few days later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that the U.S. was no longer linking the compounds and the consulate. The Post reports that the administration is looking at enacting some restrictions at the compounds, including removing diplomatic immunity.
There are several ongoing investigations into Russia's interference in the election and ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian officials. One of the men under investigation, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, spoke with Kislyak before the inauguration and let him know that things would change once Trump was in the White House. Read the entire report at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia
When NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels April 5-6, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won't be there, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday.
Instead, Tillerson plans to stay in the United States to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is expected to arrive April 6. Tillerson will travel later in the month to a country he is familiar with — Russia. The former ExxonMobil CEO has close ties with Moscow, having managed the company's Russia account and received the Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013. "It feeds the narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia," one former U.S. official told Reuters. "You don't want to do your early business with the world's great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies."
A spokesman for the State Department would not comment on Tillerson's travel plans. The news came out hours after FBI Director James Comey confirmed the bureau is investigating ties between the Russian government and Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Catherine Garcia