The Senate unanimously passed a resolution Thursday expressing opposition to the notion the United States might cooperate with the Russian government to make former U.S. diplomats, officials, and military members available for questioning.
The resolution is a direct response to Russian President Vladimir Putin discussing with the President Donald Trump on Monday the possibility of prosecuting American-born British financier Bill Browder, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and others for alleged crimes. The offer from Putin developed 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 proposed his cooperation to let U.S. investigators question the intelligence agents in exchange for an opportunity to question individuals on Russia's list of alleged criminals.
The resolution states:
Expressing the sense of Congress against the making available of current former dipomants, officials, and members of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin.
Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that the United States should refuse to make available any current or former diplomat, civil servant, political appointee, law enforcement official, or member of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin.
Only Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) were absent for the vote.
Uncertainty over the administration's stance on the issue continued this week after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Trump would work his team to decide if the Russian government should be allowed to question former U.S. diplomats.
The State Department was more vocal in opposing Putin's proposal on Wednesday. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said "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."