The State Department on Thursday accused Moscow of a “PR stunt” after reports emerged that the U.S. had rejected Russia’s request to send delegates to “monitor” November’s polls — the latest twist in a bizarre election season sullied by accusations of Russian meddling. Kremlin-backed news outlets such as RT, sometimes citing other media, reported Thursday that representatives of Russia’s Central Elections Commission had talked to the State Department about sending a delegation to watch the U.S. polls on Nov. 8. Although allowing in foreign observers to watch Americans vote is nothing new, “U.S. officials categorically rejected even the possibility of such a mission” by Russia, RT reported. The U.S. is “suffering from some sort of persecutory delusion,” a Russian lawmaker was quoted as saying. “They imagine that Russians want to distort their elections and somehow intend to do it while acting as observers.”
In a statement to POLITICO, State Department spokesman Mark Toner flatly denied his agency played a role.
“Any suggestion that we rejected Russia’s proposal to observe our elections is false,” Toner said, noting that allowing foreign observers is up to individual states. Russian officials could have participated in an observer delegation through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Toner added, but declined to do so, making their new complaints “nothing more than a PR stunt.”
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the Russian media accounts suggested officials in Moscow were conflating a number of issues involved in election monitoring in the United States, including who is in charge.