13/03/2018 08:23 GMT | Updated 13/03/2018 08:44 GMT

Donald Trump Refuses To Back UK's Claim Over Spy Poisoning, Unlike His Own State Department

Three times.

Donald Trump has once again refused to criticise Russia, this time over the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in the UK.

Theresa May yesterday said it was “highly likely” Vladimir Putin’s government was responsible for the attack but during a press briefing on Monday afternoon, Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused three times to agree with this.

Later, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to break with the President, saying the attack “clearly came from Russia”.

Leah Millis / Reuters
Sarah Sanders refused three times to back the UK's claim.

It was also revealed yesterday that a Russian nerve agent Novichok was used in the attack.

Asked about Russia’s role, Sanders said: ”The use of a highly lethal nerve agent against UK citizens on UK soil is an outrage.

“The attack was reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible. We offer the fullest condemnation.”

Asked if she was suggesting this meant Russia was not responsible, she replied: “Right now, we are standing with our UK ally.

“I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that, and we’re going to continue to work with the UK.”

Pressed a third time to be more specific, she said: “We stand with our ally and we certainly fully support them and are ready if we can be of any assistance to them.”

Aside from a remark about Syria, Trump has steered clear of criticising Russia once since taking office despite evidence the country meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

The President has also refused to impose sanctions on Moscow.

May was yesterday unequivocal in her condemnation of Russia.

Speaking in the Commons, the PM described the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury as an “indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom”.

“We will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil,” she said. 

“Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.”

May said Russia’s ambassador in London had been summoned to the Foreign Office to explain whether the attack was “a direct action by the Russian state” or the result of the Russian Government “losing control” of its stock of nerve agents.

She gave Russia until the end of Tuesday to provide a ‘credible’ response.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital in a critical condition since March 4 when they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the southern English cathedral city of Salisbury.

Russia, which has denied any role in the attack, said May’s allegations were a politically motivated “circus act”.