WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to allow U.S. investigators interrogate 12 indicted Russian officials in exchange for access to Americans.
“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a written statement Thursday. “Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”
The Russian government has expressed interest in interrogating former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul as well as Putin critic Bill Browder, an American born British citizen.
On Wednesday, Sanders said that the president was weighing the suggestion.
“The President is going to meet with his team, and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that,” Sanders said during a press briefing. “There was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States. And the President will work with his team, and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.”
The suggestion that Trump was considering the proposal added an additional layer of controversy to Monday’s summit between Trump and Putin.
The White House cannot let another day pass without unequivocally rejecting Russia’s absurd request to interrogate @McFaul and other officials. Merely entertaining this idea betrays our diplomats, undermines our interests, and hands Putin yet another propaganda victory.
— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) July 19, 2018
No President should have the power to gift wrap American citizens, let alone former Ambassadors, to our known adversaries. This morning, @SenatorMenendez @SenatorDurbin @brianschatz & I offer a simple resolution that the Senate should pass today. Read it: https://t.co/nVHl8JHF60 https://t.co/uSD0Uu9Im5
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 19, 2018
During a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland following their meeting, Trump cast doubt on his intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered with the U.S. election and that the U.S. and Russia are equally responsible for strained relations.
Trump has since walked back his remarks on the intelligence community, telling reporters on Tuesday that his full support is behind the nation’s intelligence apparatus.
Putin initially floated the notion of exchanging access to the Russian officials on his soil for access to Browder, something that Trump said at the time was an “incredible offer.”
A representative for McFaul did not immediately return a request for comment.