White House considering Putin proposal to let Russia interrogate ex US ambassador

US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin
US President Donald Trump and Russias President Vladimir Putin
US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump will discuss allowing Russian investigators to come to the US to question American citizens, including a former ambassador to Russia, in exchange for assistance in the ongoing US probe into election interference, the White House has said. President Vladimir Putin during a press conference with Trump in Helsinki proposed that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team could travel to Russia to question 12 Russian intelligence officers charged with interfering in the 2016 presidential election, if Russia is allowed to interrogate some Americans.
The Americans wanted for questioning by Russia include Michael McFaul, who was ambassador to Russia from January 2012 to February 2014, and American-born financier Bill Browder, who lobbied the US government to impose new sanctions on Moscow. Trump had described Putin’s proposal as an “incredible” offer. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders indicated that no final decision had been made but that the proposal was under consideration.
“There was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the US, and the president will work with his team and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front, Sanders told reporters. Russian prosecutors are seeking to interview McFaul and 10 other “U.S. officials and intelligence agents” in connection with their case against Browder. Russian prosecutors accused the financier of laundering USD 1.5 billion through offshore accounts and donating USD 400,000 of that sum to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign
Browder, a prominent critic of the Russian president, has denied the claim that he donated to Clinton’s campaign. The FBI, meanwhile, appeared to have dismissed the idea that it would allow a US citizen to be questioned by the Russians. I never want to say never about anything, but it’s certainly not high on our list of investigative techniques, FBI Director Christopher Wray said during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum. That’s probably even lower on our list of investigative techniques, Wray said in response to a question.

Wray said the intelligence agencies believe that Russia interfered in the American elections in 2016. He (Trump) has got his view, he’s expressed his view, and I’ll tell you what my view is. I can tell you what my view is the intelligence community’s assessment has not changed, my view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day, he said. The Russian actions, he alleged, are aimed at sowing discord and divisiveness in the United States.
We haven’t seen yet an effort to target specific election infrastructure this time, but certainly other efforts which I would call malign influence efforts are very active and we could be just a moment away from it going to the next level, he said. To me, it’s a threat that we need to take extremely seriously, said Wray who was picked by Trump himself after he fired the then FBI Director James Comey last year. What they will do is they will identify issues and through a variety of means, some overt, some covert, some through fake news, some through propaganda, will essentially sow divisiveness, spin people up on both sides of the issue and then kind of watch us go at each other, Wray said. PTI

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