BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There are whispers around the White House that the Trump Administration may return a property on the Eastern Shore to the Russian government that was once used as a country retreat for its diplomats.
The Russians message to the Trump Administration: Not on our watch. They sent a letter to the Department of State the week before more meetings with Russian officials.
The spies next door or a diplomatic getaway? Questions linger as to what actually went on behind the gates of the hidden property on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
It was once Russian owned but is now occupied only by U.S. federal agents, who may be getting their own eviction notice from the Trump White House.
“We want to give collaboration and cooperation a chance,” said Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Trump.
Because of that, the 45-acre compound outside of Centreville may become a political bargaining chip.
Maryland’s lawmakers have already sent a written warning to the current administration.
Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen are among the signatures on the letter saying “the Russian government has done nothing to deserve renewed access to these compounds.”
This is echoed by political leaders across state lines.
“To go further, I think the Russians would interpret it quite correctly as a sign of weakness,” said California Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff.
Last year, President Obama kicked out the Russian diplomats and intelligence officers who once used the property as a country retreat.
It was the result of a punishment after accusations of tampering in the American presidential election.
“Why on earth we’d want to give them back, reward the Russians for their continued denial of involvement in our election, it makes no sense whatsoever,” Schiff said.
The controversy at the capital still leaves a mysterious vacancy in small-town Maryland.
“We didn’t know and didn’t particularly care whether they were doing any espionage or anything cool like that,” said Michael Whitehill of Centreville.
Political leaders from both sides of the aisle signed a similar letter last month, expressing bipartisan concerns over the possible re-opening of the compound.
If President Trump takes steps to return the property to Russian control, Congress has the power to review those efforts under a Russia sanctions bill crafted by Sen. Cardin and approved last month.