This afternoon, the United States was hit with the astonishing news that President Trump had discussed turning over American citizens to Russian authorities for interrogation as part of Putin’s vendetta against Bill Browder, a hedge fund manager who exposed a $230 million government corruption scandal and who spearheaded the passage of the Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russia in response to the torture and murder of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
One of those citizens happens to be Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014 under President Obama, who was named in a list of desired people to extradite by the Russian government on Tuesday. In return, the Russians offered to allow Robert Mueller and his team to interview the 12 Russians who were just indicted for their involvement in the 2016 election hacking.
The president called his offer “incredible.”
While everybody assumed that the request would be laughed at and quickly ignored, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders quietly admitted this afternoon that the President was actually considering it.
“He said it was an interesting idea. He didn’t commit to anything,” Sanders said at this afternoon’s press briefing. “He wants to work with his team and determine if there’s any validity that would be helpful to the process…It was an idea they threw out.”
Former Ambassador McFaul quickly took to Twitter to issue a statement on the absurd request, which was lumped in with accusations that Bill Browder and his accomplices had funneled $400 million in illegal campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton – a charge which Browder denounced as “so ludicrous and untrue that it falls into delusion.”
I hope the White House corrects the record and denounces in categorical terms this ridiculous request from Putin. Not doing so creates moral equivalency between a legitimacy US indictment of Russian intelligence officers and a crazy, completely fabricated story invented by Putin https://t.co/K1ZvrNwTu3
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) July 18, 2018
Ambassador McFaul wasn’t even in the country of Russia during the timeframe of the conflict between Browder and the Russian government, but the Russians have been eager to get at McFaul due to his connections to Russian opposition groups seeking to loosen Putin’s ironclad grip on power.
Reaction from the American diplomatic community was furious, to say the least.
“I’m at a fucking loss,” said one diplomat to the Daily Beast, who went on to tear into the President for his appalling disrespect for America’s diplomatic community and the dangerous implications of his actions.
“It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government.”
“The president has first and foremost his interests at the top of his mind, as opposed to the government’s. That’s very clear over the past week and a half, between shitting on our NATO allies and kissing Putin’s ass,” the diplomat said. “He cares more about himself than the nation and any of us who serve it.”
Either he’s compromised by Putin or he’s a pussy, in which case he should grab himself.”
His furious words sum up the entire debacle quite nicely.