By Jordan Fabian - 01-27-17 13:26 PM EST
President Trump on Friday offered a noncommittal answer when asked whether he would lift sanctions on Russia ahead of a highly anticipated conversation with Vladimir Putin.
"I hear a call was set up. We'll see what happens," Trump said at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May. "As far as sanctions, it's very early to be talking about that."
Even as he did little to clarify his stance on sanctions, Trump reiterated his desire to forge closer ties with Putin, whom he plans to speak to on Saturday.
"If we can have a great relationship with Russia and with China and with all countries, I'm all for that," the president said.
Trump's answer is unlikely to soothe concerns about his overtures to the Kremlin.
May was direct in rejecting any effort to remove sanctions on Moscow, even as she and her counterpart pledged to continue the close U.S.-U.K. alliance.
"We believe the sanctions should continue," May said, standing beside Trump in the East Room of the White House.
The conflicting answers foreshadow deep divisions that could emerge on both sides of the Atlantic if Trump decides to remove sanctions against Russia.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway publicly raised the possibility Friday, when she told Fox News that the move is "under consideration."
That drew bipartisan backlash from Congress, particularly from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who said he would work to codify sanctions under U.S. law to stop Trump from rolling them back.
"For the sake of America's national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course," McCain said in a statement Friday before Trump spoke.
The U.S. and European Union have imposed sanctions against Russia for its 2014 military intervention in Ukraine.
Former President Obama slapped additional penalties against the Kremlin for its interference in the 2016 election, after U.S. intelligence agencies found that Russian hackers stole emails from Democratic political groups.
- Updated at 2:25 p.m.