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President Donald Trump's national security advisor, John Bolton, told reporters Tuesday in Moscow that the Russian effort to interfere in America's elections is "objectionable" and made it "impossible for two years" for the United States and Russia to make progress diplomatically.
"That's a loss, particularly for Russia," said Bolton, after a 90-minute meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"So it's a lesson I think, don't mess with American elections," Bolton said.
"What the meddling did create was distrust and animosity in the U.S. and made it almost impossible for two years for Russia and the U.S. to make progress diplomatically," Bolton said.
He noted that during his sit-down with Putin, "we discussed our continuing concern with Russian meddling in the election."
That interference, which included hacking of Democratic National Committee computers and efforts to sow discord online by using bogus social media accounts, has led to the Trump administration issuing sanctions against dozens of Russian individuals and entities.
But Bolton also said, "taken what we've seen so far, there's no possibility the outcome of the [2016 presidential election] would've been changed."
He was referring to federal indictments accusing Russian individuals and entities with American election interference, including in the election that sent Trump to the White House.
"The fact is, the outcome would've been exactly the same with all the evidence we have," Bolton said.
"If new information comes to light, we would have to take that into account."
Trump, after a meeting with Putin in Helsinki in July, had suggested to reporters that he was inclined to believe Putin's denials that Russia had tried to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
"I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia, Trump said at the time.
Ex-CIA Director John Brennan, a Trump critic, called the president's performance at that news conference "nothing short of treasonous." The late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accused Trump of conducting "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
The U.S. Cyber Command, a division of the Defense Department, has started to contact individual Russians in an effort to deter them from interfering with the upcoming midterm elections in the United States, according to a New York Times report Tuesday.
But Bolton suggested Tuesday that the Russian effort to interfere in elections pales in comparison to an alleged ongoing effort by China to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs.
"If you want to talk about a really massive influence effort on the American political system, I suggest you read Vice President [Mike] Pence's speech on China's efforts ... looking at everything China was doing," Bolton said.
"Very, very senior US intelligence officials said it makes Russia look like the junior varsity."
Pence, in a speech in early October, had said, "To put it bluntly, President Trump's leadership is working; and China wants a different American President."
Pence's claims came days after Trump, in a speech at the United Nations' Security Council, said China was trying to interfere in November's midterm elections.
They don't want me, or us, to win because I am the first president to ever challenge China on trade, " Trump said.
China's Foreign Ministry strongly denied the claims by Trump and Pence.