Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez blasted the Trump administration's reported plans to reinstall two Russian government compounds that the Obama administration had shuttered, saying that Trump was allied with Russia rather than with America.
On May 31, the Washington Post reported that that the Trump administration was considering returning two U.S. compounds to the Russian government. The buildings, located in Maryland and New York, had enjoyed diplomatic immunity until former President Barack Obama ordered them to be closed down.
"President Obama closed those two compounds because of Russia’s attacks on our democracy," Perez said in a statement, according to The Hill. “Trump’s willingness to give them back shows where his allegiances are: with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and not with the American people."
In December 2016, Obama signed an executive order expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. and denying further Russian access to the two compounds. The cited reasons were the U.S. intelligence community's consensus that the Russian government had committed cyber espionage to affect the 2016 presidential election and the harassment of U.S. diplomats in Russia.
"There has to be a cost and a consequence for what Russia has done," an anonymous Obama administration official told The Guardian at the time. "It is an extraordinary step for them to interfere in the democratic process here ... There needs to be a price for that."
President Donald Trump responded to Obama's executive action by telling reporters: "I think we ought to get on with our lives."
The compound closures had outraged Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration. Russian officials repeatedly asserted during meetings with U.S. diplomats that Obama's action was illegal. In early May, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allegedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that the Trump administration would consider restoring the compounds without strings attached, the Washington Post reported.
R.C. Hammond, an adviser to Tillerson, told reporters: "The U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements."
Perez asserted in his statement that restoring the compounds would signal to the Putin government that Russia could continue committing cyber espionage against the U.S. without repercussions.
"Trump would put Americans at risk and send an unmistakable message to foreign powers that attacks on our election process will go unpunished," the DNC chairman concluded.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California took to social media to express bafflement that the Trump administration would even consider returning the compounds to Russian officials.
"[Trump] should not return properties Russians used for espionage that were shuttered after they interfered in our election," Schiff tweeted out. "Why reward them?"
On May 22, the Russian embassy in the U.S. tweeted out a warning that the Russian government would take aggressive action if its compounds were not restored.
"Russia is seeking to return its diplomatic property in [U.S.] asap," Russia in USA tweeted out. "Otherwise, we will have to take counter measures."