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Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visits US, meets Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson

Washington: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday held talks in Washington with President Donald Trump and his American counterpart Rex Tillerson on a host of issues, amid a raging political storm over the abrupt sacking of the FBI chief who was probing Russia's meddling in the US polls.

"I want to welcome Foreign Minister Lavrov to the State Department and express my appreciation for him making the trip to Washington so that we can continue our dialogue and our exchange of views that began in Moscow with the dialogue he hosted on a very broad range of topics," Tillerson said.

This was the first public appearance of the two leaders who held talks on issues like Syria and Ukraine.

Donald Trump and Sergey Lavrov. AP

Donald Trump and Sergey Lavrov. AP

The meeting came following the surprise sacking of FBI Director James Comey by Trump yesterday.

Peppered with questions on Comey's firing during his brief media interaction at the State Department, Lavrov joked around.

"Does the Comey firing cast a shadow of your talks, gentlemen?" a reported asked.

"Was he fired?" Lavrov questioned.

"Yes", the reporter responded.

"You are kidding. You are kidding," replied Lavrov.

Trump welcomed Lavrov to the White House marking his highest level face-to-face contact with a Russian government official since taking office.

The two leaders held discussions at the Oval Office on a host of issues and the US president described his meeting with Lavrov as "very, very good".

"We had a very, very good meeting. We're going to stop the killing and the death (in Syria)," " Trump said, shortly after the meeting.

"I think that we are going to do very well with respect to Syria, I think things are happening - they are really, really, really positive," Trump said.

About Comey's sacking, Trump said the FBI chief "was not doing a good job".

Lavrov said Trump was seeking "mutually beneficial" and "pragmatic" relations with Russia.

"President Trump clearly confirmed his interest in building mutually beneficial, business-like pragmatic relations," he said.

An angry Opposition has called for appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate into the alleged Russian influence in last year's general elections.

On the Senate floor, Senate majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell ruled out any such appointment.

"Today we'll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done - also to let this body and the national security community develop countermeasures and warfighting doctrine to see that it doesn't occur again," McConnell said.

What everyone thinks of the manner in which Comey handled the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's unauthorised use of a private server and her mishandling of classified information, it is clear what the Democrats thought of it, both at that time and consistently thereafter, McConnell said.

"Last year, the current Democratic leader said it 'appeared to be an appalling act', one that he said 'goes against the tradition of prosecutors at every level of government'," McConnell said.

"And the prior Democratic leader, when asked if James Comey should resign given his conduct of the investigation, he replied, 'Of course. Yes. It's also clear what our Democratic colleagues think of the man who evaluated Mr Comey's professional conduct and concluded that the bureau needed a change in leadership," McConnell said.

Senate Minority Leader Senator Charles Schumer continued with his demand of appointing a special prosecutor.

"The dismissal of Director Comey establishes a very troubling pattern. This administration has now removed several law enforcement officials in a position to conduct independent investigations of the president and his administration, from Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to Preet Bharara, and now, Jim Comey," he said.

"What should happen now, what must happen now, is appoint a special prosecutor to oversee this investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein sat in the judiciary committee and promised to appoint a special prosecutor at the appropriate time," Schumer said, asserting that if there was ever a time when circumstances warranted a special prosecutor, it was right now.

A special prosecutor is not subject to day-to-day supervision by the attorney general or anyone else at the Justice Department.

That means the special prosecutor would have much greater say in who he can subpoena, which questions they ask, how to conduct an investigation.

The special prosecutor can only be removed for good cause such as misconduct, not to quash the investigation, the opposition leader argued.

The appointment of a special prosecutor would be a welcome step in the right direction, but it is not the only action that should be taken.

"There are a great many outstanding questions about the circumstances of Director Comey's dismissal, the status of the executive branch investigation into the Trump campaign ties to Russia, and what the future holds for these investigations," Schumer said.

Published Date: May 10, 2017 22:28 PM | Updated Date: May 10, 2017 22:28 PM

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