(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal that Russian authorities be allowed to question American citizens، the White House said on Thursday، after the offer drew fierce criticism in the United States.
After their summit on Monday in Helsinki، Putin described the proposal when he was asked about the possible extradition of 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted last Friday in the United States on charges of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The offer Putin described was to permit American law enforcement officials to observe questioning by Russian officials of the indicted Russians in exchange for letting Russian investigators question Americans on other matters، specifically mentioning a case involving London-based financier Bill Browder، a onetime investor in Russia.
“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin، but President Trump disagrees with it،” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.” Trump on Monday called the idea “an incredible offer.” The White House said on Wednesday that Trump was considering the proposal، drawing a barrage of criticism from his fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.
As the U.S. Senate on Thursday prepared to vote on a resolution putting Congress in opposition to allowing any U.S. officials to be questioned by Russia، the White House made its announcement rejecting the offer.
It was the latest about-face from the White House as it struggled to quiet an uproar over Trump’s failure to confront Putin over Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Trump on Tuesday said he misspoke during a joint news conference in Helsinki when he said he did not see why Russia would meddle in the election. On Wednesday، Trump answered “no” to a reporter’s question on whether Russia was still targeting the United States، only to have Sanders say hours later he was saying “no” to answering any questions - not to the question itself.
On Wednesday، the Russian Prosecutor General’s office listed Americans it wanted to question for “illegal activities،” including Michael McFaul، who was U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration.
“That’s not going to happen،” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CBN News on Thursday.
“I don’t think there is one member of Congress، on either side of the aisle، that believes it is remotely smart to require our former ambassador، Mr. Browder or any other person to submit to interviews by Putin’s government،” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said. “Because there is no rule of law، as I said، in Russia. There is just rule of Putin.”