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U.S. Says 'No Agreements' With Russia Amid Reports Some Sanctions Could Be Lifted

by Ken Dilanian, Abigail Williams and Alex Johnson /
Equipment is removed from a Russian compound at Pioneer Point in Maryland in December after President Barack Obama imposed sanctions for Russia's alleged interference in the presidential campaign.NBC News

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The United States has reached no agreements with Russia, the State Department said Wednesday night in response to reports that the Trump administration was considering returning two Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States that the Obama administration shut down last year.

The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was taking steps to hand back the compounds — one in Maryland and one in New York — which former President Barack Obama ordered shuttered in December in retaliation for the alleged orchestration of hacking attacks designed to interfere in the presidential election.

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R.C. Hammond, senior communications adviser for the State Department, said Wednesday night: "The U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements. The next meeting will be in June in St. Petersburg."

Trump told The Wall Street Journal in January that he intended to maintain the sanctions on Russia — "at least for a period of time."

A senior U.S. official who deals with foreign policy told NBC News that he hadn't heard about the purported initiative to restore Russia's rights at the two compounds, but he said the Trump administration is intent on improving relations despite investigations into alleged Russian interference.

 Equipment is removed from a Russian compound at Pioneer Point in Maryland in December after President Barack Obama imposed sanctions for Russia's alleged interference in the presidential campaign. NBC News

If reports of the initiative are accurate, it would likely be intended as a gesture of goodwill to Moscow, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Even so, he said, it's a "really bad idea."

After meeting last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called allegations that Russia interfered with the election "a serious issue" that had been "fairly well established in the United States."

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