US President Donald Trump may expel dozens of Russian diplomats tomorrow in response to the chemical weapons attack on a former Russian spy living in Britain, according to US media reports.
"We agreed - Germany and France at least - that such reactions are still necessary in addition to recalling the ambassador".
Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah told Bloomberg on Saturday: "The United States stands firmly with the United Kingdom in condemning Russia's outrageous action".
The leaked proposal to expel Russian diplomats, first reported by CNN, raised questions about whether people inside the US government disclosed the pending action to force the president's hand in taking tough action against Moscow.
The leaders of former Soviet bloc European Union states the Czech Republic and Lithuania, as well as Denmark and Ireland, have said they were considering further unilateral steps, including expelling diplomats.
The U.S. considers the diplomats to be spies, carrying out intelligence activities under cover as embassy staff, one of the people said.
All of the people who discussed the president's deliberations asked not to be identified.
'The president is always considering options to hold Russian Federation accountable in response to its malign activities. There is no Russian ambassador in Ukraine for a long time, we did not accept agreement for a new ambassador, as there is no Ukrainian ambassador to Russia.
The White House's National Security Council recommended the expulsions after 10 European nations swung behind the United Kingdom in condemning the apparent attempted murder in strong terms, according to CNN.
"As for the decision taken, we regret in this context that again such decisions are taken using the wording ´highly likely´", President Vladimir Putin´s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. The Russian leader was recently elected to another six years as president.
The president has recently replaced National Security Adviser McMaster with former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Secretary of State Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, changes that could impact his administration's stance towards Russian Federation.
Congress has pressured Trump to get tougher on Putin and passed legislation in August giving lawmakers the power to block the president from lifting punitive USA measures imposed after Russia's incursion into Ukraine.
Moscow denies any involvement in the attack on the Skripals and has accused Britain of orchestrating a campaign against it.
The U.K. made the decision after concluding Russia was responsible for the poisonings of Sergei Skripal, 66, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter, 33-year-old Yulia Skripal.
Trump has repeatedly stated he intends to have a good personal relationship with Putin, and on Wednesday tweeted those who wanted him to "excoriate" Putin over the allegedly unfair elections were 'wrong!'.