- President Donald Trump is facing a growing chorus of criticism for considering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request for a former US ambassador to be turned over for questioning.
- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday did not deny that the Trump administration is considering such an exchange, which prompted swift outrage.
- Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and others have slammed the Trump administration for entertaining the notion of turning over Americans to Russia.
President Donald Trump is facing a growing chorus of criticism for considering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request for a former US ambassador to be turned over for questioning.
During their recent meeting in Helsinki, Finland, Putin reportedly asked Trump to consider turning over nearly a dozen Americans, including former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, for interrogation in relation to alleged financial crimes committed by Bill Browder.
Browder is an American investor and has been a particularly vocal critic of Putin’s government since his accountant and lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in a Russian prison in 2009 under dubious circumstances. He helped lead the charge for the 2012 Magnitsky Act, a US law that targets the finances and places travel restrictions of various Russians.
In Helsinki, Putin suggested he’d allow investigators involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference to interview 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted as part of that investigation if the US agreed to turn over McFaul, Browder, and others for questioning.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday did not deny that the Trump administration is considering such an exchange, which prompted swift outrage.
Sarah Sanders says that "there was conversation" between Putin and Trump about Russian authorities questioning Bill Browder and Michael McFaul; Sanders said there wasn't a commitment made, but that Trump would "work with his team." (via CBS) pic.twitter.com/eXnUApGuZX
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 18, 2018
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday tweeted, "Ambassador [McFaul] is a patriot who has spent his career standing up for America. To see the White House even hesitate to defend a diplomat is deeply troubling."
Similarly, former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Wednesday tweeted that Trump's refusal to dismiss "this absurd request out of hand is an extraordinary sign of weakness by an American president."
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell went as far to threaten Trump with impeachment if he went through with turning McFaul over to Russia.
"Take this to the bank, [Trump]," Swalwell tweeted on Wednesday, "You turn over former U.S. Ambassador [McFaul] to Putin, you can count on me and millions others to swiftly make you an ex-president."
Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, called on Congress to pass a resolution "making it clear that under no circumstances will the US support nor be a part of any effort to send [McFaul] or any American to Russia to satisfy [Trump's] infatuation with Putin."
Meanwhile, on Thursday morning, Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told CBS News, "There is no way I would turn over a former diplomat to Russia for investigation."
But then the White House on Thursday afternoon said Trump "disagrees" with Putin's "sincere" proposal to exchange McFaul and other Americans for the 12 Russian intelligence officers.
This comes just a few days after the president referred to Putin's suggestion for the exchange as an "incredible" offer and a day after Sanders said the administration was still mulling over how to respond.
The Senate on Thursday afternoon unanimously passed a resolution expressing its disapproval of Trump allowing Russia to question McFaul or other US officials. It was a rare, bipartisan rebuke of the president.