White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said President Donald Trump did not agree to Russian requests to interrogate certain Americans.
On Tuesday, Russia released a list of suspects it wants to question for alleged crimes, including former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and American-born British financier Bill Browder. McFaul is just one of several U.S. officials listed, and Sanders said Russian President Vladimir Putin did propose a law-enforcement cooperation plan to Trump Monday.
"There was some conversation about it, but there wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States," Sanders said. "The president will work with his team and we'll let you know if there is an announcement on that front."
Sanders did not say whether Trump supports the idea of letting Russian authorities question U.S. officials.
"The president is going to meet with his team and we'll let you know when we have an announcement on that," Sanders told New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.
Putin’s request comes after the Justice Department indicted 12 GRU military intelligence officers for their involvement in the Russian operation to interfere in the 2016 election. Putin offered to allow U.S. investigators to question the intelligence agents in exchange for the opportunity to question McFaul, Browder, and others.
McFaul dismissed the idea.
"Putin invents stories and spins them out to Trump in their one on one," he wrote on Twitter. "Trump administration needs to denounce this crazy idea now."
Russia has alleged McFaul’s involvement in money crimes, along with Browder, whom Russia convicted in absentia in 2013. Browder is the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, and his employee Sergei Magnitsky was investigating corruption in the Russian government when he was accused of the underlying crimes himself.
Magnitsky died in a Russian prison and is the namesake for the Magnitsky Act, a law passed in 2012 that sanctions human-rights violators in Russia and elsewhere. Browder lobbied for the law in the face of opposition from Putin and other Russian officials, and he wrote in Time magazine Tuesday that Trump should not cooperate with Putin on this matter.
Browder said Putin’s threats against him and others should not be taken lightly.
"For the last ten years, I’ve been trying to avoid getting killed by Putin’s regime, and there already exists a trail of dead bodies connected to its desire to see me dead," Browder wrote.