State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Wednesday that Russian requests to question former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul were "absolutely absurd."
When asked if Russian investigators would be assisted by the United States in their efforts to interview McFaul and others, Nauert said she couldn't speak to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' earlier comments on the matter.
"Well, I can't answer on behalf of the White House with regard to that," Nauert said. "But what I can tell you is that the overall assertions that have come out of the Russian government are absolutely absurd. The fact that they want to question 11 American citizens and the assertions that the Russian government is making about those American citizens, we do not stand by those assertions that the Russian government makes."
Nauert also said the Department of Justice would have to be involved in any investigation that includes former American government employees. She added that such actions would be a "grave concern" to those who used to work at the State Department.
The idea to allow Russian officials the opportunity to question certain U.S.-linked individuals arose after the Justice Department indicted 12 GRU military intelligence officers for their involvement in Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election. Putin offered to let U.S. investigators question the intelligence agents in exchange for the opportunity to question individuals Russia has accused of criminal activity. The individuals of interest to Russia include McFaul and American-born British financier Bill Browder.
Earlier in the afternoon, Sanders said to reporters at the White House that President Donald Trump would have to speak with his team first regarding the Russian investigation.