WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States still needed to sort out the facts behind the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, that struck down a former spy, and would talk to British Prime Minister Theresa May later on Tuesday.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, acknowledged that British authorities have accused Russia in the attack on the former Russian double agent who passed secrets to British intelligence, but said he still needed to talk to May before rendering a judgment.
“As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be,” Trump said.
“It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia, and I would certainly take that finding as fact,” he added.
Britain has said the nerve agent used in the attack earlier this month was one developed by the Soviet Union, and that it was highly likely that Russia was to blame.
Trump’s comments were more equivocal than that of his then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who on Monday agreed with Britain’s assessment and said that those behind the crime must face serious consequences.
On Tuesday, Trump fired Tillerson after a series of public rifts over policy on North Korea, Russia and Iran, replacing his chief diplomat with loyalist CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
May has given Russian President Vladimir Putin until midnight on Tuesday to explain how the nerve agent came to be used in the attack on Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33.
The pair were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre on March 4.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis