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Tillerson: Trump Wants To ‘Make Progress’ On Russia Despite Political Cost

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday his boss wants to pursue better relations with Russia regardless of the political blowback that might hit an administration already under investigation for possible links to Moscow.

Tillerson told reporters that President Donald Trump instructed him not to allow any domestic political controversies to hinder his efforts to “make progress” on the bilateral relationship, Reuters reported.

“The president’s been clear to me: do not let what’s happened over here in the political realm prevent you from the work that you need to do on this relationship and he’s been quite clear with me … that we might make progress,” he said at a news conference following a meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English.

“I’m really not involved in any of these other issues,” he added, referring to multiple Congressional and Department of Justice probes into improper ties between Trump aides and Kremlin operatives.

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Tillerson’s comments on Russia follow his visit to Sydney, Australia, where he attended an annual Asia-Pacific conference along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The secretary of state reiterated the administration’s commitment to the region, reassuring allies that the U.S. has no intention of abandoning its security guarantees following a withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

“I hope the fact that we are here demonstrates that is certainly not this administration’s view or intention to somehow put at arm’s length the other important allies and partners in the world,” Tillerson told reporters in Sydney.

Although the focus of the visits to Australia and New Zealand was economic and security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, Tillerson couldn’t avoid questions about the Russia investigations. The diplomat said he would continue to work toward some kind of rapprochement with Moscow, regardless of the political environment in Washington.

Tillerson said in response to questions on whether he was worried a scandal would consume the administration, “I can’t really comment on any of that because I don’t have any direct knowledge,”

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