One of the strange things at the President’s joint press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was the President’s references to an offer of assistance from Putin to Special Counsel Mueller. Specifically that Putin would be happy to allow the Special Counsel’s investigators come to Russia and observe his own counterintelligence officers interview the twelve GRU officers that were indicted last week. Aside from the fact that this would be pointless, which we know because the Brits actually took Putin up on a similar offer when they were investigating Alexander Litvinenko’s assassination by Russian operatives. The British investigators were harassed during their trip to Moscow and generally given little cooperation while having their time wasted. But this offer was even stranger than it first appeared as, apparently, Putin offered it in exchange for access to the former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, several Federal law enforcement officers involved with looking into the death of Sergei Magnitski, the congressional staffer tasked with drafting the text of the Magnitski Act, and US expat Bill Browder who was Magnitsky’s employer and who has spearheaded the push for the US Magnitsky Act, as well as similar legislation in numerous other countries.
Here’s the translation of what AMB McFaul was quoting:
The Prosecutor General’s Office announced the desire to interrogate the former US Ambassador McFaul in the Browder case
This was strange enough. After a day or so of Russian state controlled news media pushing for this to happen, today it got even stranger.
The former US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, stepped in to call for the Secretary of State to take action:
To her credit, Heather Nauert, the State Department Spokesperson, did unequivocally push back on this today:
This, however, is not good enough. The White House, specifically Sarah Huckabee Sanders who, as the Press Secretary speaks for the President, needs to come out and unequivocally state that this is not going to happen and that US officials, whether political appointees, term appointees, civil servants regardless of agency or department, members of Congress and their staffs, and military personnel are off limits to harassment by foreign powers, let alone hostile foreign powers, for simply performing their lawfully defined and delineated duties. And that US citizens are also off limits to such harassment for petitioning their government to redress their grievances, as Browder did in seeking to get the Magnitsky Act drafted, passed, and signed into law. And she must make it clear that what she is stating and conveying comes directly from the President himself. Moreover, the President then needs to publicly, clearly, and without equivocation back up this statement. Otherwise, no US official or US citizen will be safe from this type of harassment under the color of law ever again.
My professional estimate here, for whatever it is worth, is that Putin made this offer as a dangle. If he can even get even the remotest traction from the President on this trial balloon, he will eventually adjust his claim that Ambassador McFaul tried to interfere in his election in 2011 to Ambassador McFaul did so on the direct orders of Secretary of State Clinton. And therefore he’s happy to help his good friend the President out by indicting her and trying her, since his own Department of Justice seems to be unable or unwilling to do so, if the President will just allow his investigators to have access to her and then extraditing her when they find sufficient cause to try her.
We are once again off the looking glass and through the map!