In an apparent move to embarrass the United States over Donald Trump's claims of a "rigged" presidential election, Russia sought to send monitors to U.S. polling stations for the Nov. 8 vote, Russian media revealed Thursday.
The bid was sharply rebuffed by the State Department, and one state election official threatened criminal action if Russian monitors showed up, according to state-controlled Izvestia daily and broadcaster RT.
State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner called the Russian effort a "PR stunt" and denied that the United States blocked Russian diplomats from observing the election.
A spokeswoman for Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who received a request to allow Russian monitors, called it a "propaganda ploy."
"We've allowed observers from overseas in the past from other countries, never from Russia," Meg Casper said. She added that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security also "told us not to do this."
Trump, who is behind in most polls, has complained for weeks about potential election fraud. In Wednesday night's debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton, the Republican nominee refused to say whether he would abide by the results on Election Day.
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On Thursday, he said he will "totally accept the results — if I win."
Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, have become prominent issues in the U.S. campaign and were mentioned during Wednesday's debate for allegedly interfering in the election.
U.S. intelligence officials say Russia is behind a series of computer hacks that leaked embarrassing emails from the Democratic National Committee and top Clinton campaign staffers. Trump was skeptical about Russia's role in the leaks and deflected Clinton's charge that he is an admirer of Putin and overlooks the Russian leader's alleged meddling in the election and other anti-U.S. positions.