Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the idea of extraditing 12 Russians accused of interfering in the presidential election by having his own investigators interrogate them in Russia.
Putin would, however, allow U.S. prosecutors to watch.
Putin referenced a joint treaty agreement between the U.S. and Russia, and threw out the idea at a bizarre press conference with President Donald Trump where Trump appeared to accept his ‘strong’ denial of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.
Putin even said special counsel Robert Mueller, whose team continues to rack up guilty pleas and announced Monday it had arrested a Russian in Washington, D.C., could send U.S. officials to witness the interviews.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin offered to have Russian law enforcement interrogate alleged Russian spies in Russia – and U.S. President Donald Trump called it an ‘incredible offer’
He said Mueller could ‘send a formal and official request’ and that Russia’s own law enforcement would interrogate the alleged hackers, mostly intelligence officers in the G.R.U.
He pitched the idea when asked if he would extradite 12 Russian spies accused of hacking Democrats during the campaign to the U.S. where they could face trial.
‘Moreover, we can meet you halfway,’ Putin said. ‘We can make another step. We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller, we can lead them into the country and they will be present for this questioning,’ Putin said.
Trump called it ‘an incredible offer.’
Putin said special counsel Robert Mueller’s team could observe the interrogations – but Americans would have to be made subject to interrogations, too
THAT’S INCREDIBLE: President Trump called it an ‘incredible offer,’ but prosecutors likely want to conduct their own interviews of Russian spies charged with conspiracy
‘He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Ok? Thank you,’ Trump said.
But the Putin proposed ‘another condition’ that he attached.
He brought up William Browder, a financier who crusaded for the Magnitsky Act, which slaps sanctions on Russians, following the death in prison of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky after uncovering an alleged ponzi scheme.
‘For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case,’ Putin said.
HAVING A BALL: The Putin proposal was one of several areas where the two leaders played ball
‘Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over one and a half billion dollars in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russian army in the United States and yet the money escaped the country, they were transferred to the United States,’ Putin said.
‘They sent huge amount of money – $400 million – as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton,’ he claimed. Browder told CNBC the claim was false.
Trump also called the idea ‘interesting.’
‘I addressed directly (the question of) Russian interference in our elections. We spent a great deal of time talking about it. He feels strongly about the issue and has an interesting idea,’ Trump said.
Putin couched his response in the terminology of the rule of law.
‘There is the issue of trying a case in the court and the final say is for the court to deliver,’ Putin said. He said they were ‘individuals’ not acting on behalf of the Russian government or on his own orders, as prosecutors charge.
‘We are now talking about the private individuals and not about the particular states. And as far as the most recent allegations is concerned about the Russian intelligence officers, we do have an intergovernmental treaty,’ he said.
‘Please do send us the request,’ Putin suggested.
‘We will analyze it properly and we will send a formal response. And as I said we can extend this cooperation. But we should do it on a reciprocal basis because we would await our Russian counterparts to provide us access to the persons of interest for us, who we believe can have something to do with intelligences,’ he said.
‘Let’s discuss the specific issues and not use the Russia and the U.S. relationship as a loose change, for this internal political struggle,’ Putin said.