Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday castigated the Trump administration for not swiftly defending former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
Clinton's rebuke came in response to questions over Trump's reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday after it was reported the Russian president talked to Trump about the possibility of prosecuting American-born British financier Bill Browder and McFaul for alleged crimes.
CNBC reporter John Harwood tweeted Wednesday that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders "declined to rule out US cooperation in that effort" and that Trump would consult his national security team.
"WH press sec Sanders acknowledged that Putin talked to Trump about his interest in prosecuting financier Bill Browder and former US ambassador Michael McFaul. she declined to rule out US cooperation in that effort, saying Trump would consult his national security team," Harwood tweeted.
WH press sec Sanders acknowledged that Putin talked to Trump about his interest in prosecuting financier Bill Browder and former US ambassador Michael McFaul. she declined to rule out US cooperation in that effort, saying Trump would consult his national security team
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) July 18, 2018
Clinton called McFaul a "patriot" and said it is "deeply troubling" that the Trump administration would hesitate to defend him.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 19, 2018
Clinton has faced scrutiny of her own when it comes to failing to defend a diplomat, as Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed in a terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Two security contractors said last September that the Clinton State Department silenced them when they attempted to speak up about Benghazi lapses.
Sanders did not say whether Trump supports the idea of letting Russian authorities question U.S. officials. She did, however, push back against the notion that Trump made a commitment to help Putin with his request to question a list of of suspects released by Russia on Tuesday, a list that includes Browder and McFaul.
"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."
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said she couldn't speak to Sanders' comments earlier Wednesday, but she slammed the Russian request to question McFaul as "absolutely absurd."
"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."
Russia has previously alleged McFaul’s involvement in money crimes, along with Browder, whom Russia convicted in absentia in 2013, but McFaul pushed back on Twitter against Putin's request as a "crazy idea."
"Trump administration needs to denounce this crazy idea now," tweeted McFaul, who has been critical of Putin’s policies as well as those of Trump.