WASHINGTON ― The Senate on Thursday rebuked President Donald Trump for considering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request to allow Russian prosecutors to question U.S. officials, including veteran diplomat and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
The unanimous 98-0 vote approving a resolution introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) came shortly after the White House issued a statement saying that Trump disagreed with the proposal that he’d called an “incredible offer” just three days earlier at a summit with Putin in Helsinki.
“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement. “Hopefully, President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”
On Wednesday, Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump was considering the exchange, despite swift backlash from diplomats and Democratic lawmakers.
“The president is going to meet with his team, and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that,” Huckabee Sanders said. “There was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States.”
During his summit with Trump, Putin proposed allowing the U.S. to question the 12 Russian officials indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in exchange for letting Russia interview 11 Americans, including McFaul and outspoken Kremlin critic Bill Browder.
In a joint press conference with Putin, Trump said that the Russian leader “offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.”
Members of both parties roundly criticized Putin’s suspicious request and Trump’s refusal to decline it outright. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, told CNN on Thursday that it would be “absurd” to allow Russia to question Americans over unfounded charges of financial crimes.
“The concept of letting American citizens being investigated for crimes that are just, I think, jokes is absurd,” he added. “The administration to even entertain this shows to me how naive they are about what’s actually going on in Russia.”
The resolution the Senate passed overwhelmingly on Thursday is nonbinding and has no force of law. Nevertheless, it sends Trump a message “against the making available of current and former diplomats, officials, and members of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin,” according to the resolution text.
Earlier on Thursday, a pair of Republican senators objected to two other resolutions intending to affirm the Senate’s support for the U.S. intelligence community in the wake of Trump’s repeated statements giving credence to Putin’s denial of his country’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.