News & Politics

Trump White House Refuses to Criticize Russia Following Chemical Attack in U.K.

The British prime minister has already identified Russia as the primary suspect.

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

British Prime Minister Theresa May declared Monday it is "highly likely" the Kremlin was responsible for a chemical attack on an ex-Russian spy and his daughter over a week ago in the United Kingdom. 

When asked whether the White House agrees with that assessment, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deflected.

"Right now, we are standing with our U.K. ally," she said. "I think they're still working through even some of the details of that."

May has given the Russian government, which has denied any responsibility for the attack, until the end of Tuesday to provide a "credible response" to her conclusions. If no convincing explanation is given, Britain will conclude the attack was a criminal act by Moscow.

The fact that the White House could not provide a more convincing show of sympathy and support for one of our closest allies is deeply troubling. Authorities have determined that Sergei Skripal, the former spy, and his daughter were attacked with a nerve agent known as Novichok, part of a class of chemical weapons developed by the Soviet Union.

It's conceivable that someone is trying to make it look like Russia conducted the attack. But given Russian President Vladimir Putin's escalating provocations in recent years, demanding an explanation from the Kremlin is the least the United States could do.

"Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others," said May.

The Associated Press reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged that the attack "clearly came from Russia."

President Donald Trump has a well-known affinity for Putin and reflexively defends authoritarian leaders. He's failed to make any serious attempt to call out the Russian government for its support of anti-LGBT attacks in Chechnya, praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for moving to establish indefinite control of the government and bragged about having a "great relationship" with the brutal Phillippine president Rodrigo Duterte.

Trump's reluctance to place any pressure on the Kremlin after the chemical attack continues a disgraceful pattern.

Watch Sanders respond to questions about the incident below:

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.