The US Senate just voted 98-0 to oppose a Putin proposal to interrogate US officials, even after a last-minute reversal by President Trump.
The resolution was crafted after the White House appeared yesterday to be open to the idea, which would have included Russian prosecutors interviewing former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul.
The White House decision not to reject the idea outright garnered outrage from lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill.
Shortly before the vote was scheduled to occur, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that the proposal was made “in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it.”
Every present Senator voted in favor of the resolution, which expressed the sense of the Senate that no current or former diplomat, civil servant, law enforcement official, member of the Armed Forces or political appointee should be made available to Putin’s government for an interrogation.
Schumer called on Trump to speak out: Ahead of the vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on President Trump to personally reject Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to interview American officials, including former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.
Schumer added it was "neither the policy nor the practice of the United States to submit our citizens, let alone our ambassadors to a foreign adversary."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders just issued a statement that says President Trump disagrees with Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to question Americans, including the former US ambassador to Russia.
"It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it," she said. "Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt."
Wait... what proposal?
The White House said on Wednesday it is entertaining a proposal raised by Russian President Vladimir Putin to interrogate Americans in exchange for assistance in the ongoing US investigation into election interference.
Putin raised the idea in his summit talks with President Trump on Monday, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. The Americans wanted for questioning by Moscow include Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, and American-born financier Bill Browder, who successfully lobbied the US government to impose new sanctions on Moscow.
Sanders indicated on Wednesday no final decision had been made but that the proposal was under consideration.
"The President's going to meet with his team and we'll let you know when we have an announcement on that," she said.
That response drew outcry from diplomats and lawmakers.
A top Senate Republican leader blocked passage Thursday of a non-binding bipartisan resolution related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican, complained the resolution — which was written by GOP Jeff Flake and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons — was "purely a symbolic act." He said he wanted Senate committees to dig into the issues involved before deciding next steps. He said those steps could include new sanctions against Russia to punish that country for its meddling in US elections.
What was in the proposal: Their proposal rejects Putin's denial of election interference, calls for the immediate enactment of sanctions passed by Congress last year, and asks Senate committees to hold hearings into what exactly happened in the private meeting between Putin and Trump, including obtaining relevant notes and other information.
But this isn't the only Russia-related resolution the Senate is considering today.
Senators are set to vote soon on another resolution written by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. That one rejects a proposal from Russia's Vladimir Putin that might allow the Russian government interview American officials, including former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.
The top US general in the Middle East told reporters that he has received "no specific direction" in the wake of Monday's meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite Russia's claims that agreements had been reached with regard to military cooperation.
No direction given: "We have received no specific direction at this point," Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, which oversees US troops in the region, told reporters at the Pentagon via a video teleconference.
Votel said he was "not privy" to any talks between the US, Russia and Israel that would seek to draw down US forces in Syria in exchange for Russian guarantees to keep Iranian forces and Iranian backed-groups away from the Israel-Syria border region.
Law prohibits collaboration: He also noted that the US military is prohibited by law from coordinating, synchronizing, or collaborating with Russian forces.
After the 2014 Russian military incursion in Ukraine and its seizure of Crimea, Congress prohibited "any bilateral military-to-military cooperation" with Russia in its passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Votel said any cooperation "would have to be created by Congress or a waiver that they would approve to allow us to do something like that. I have not asked for that at this point and we'll see what direction comes down."
The Senate will soon vote on a resolution related to Russian President Vladimir’s Putin’s proposal to Trump offering assistance in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation in exchange for allowing Russia to question US officials.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called it a "fine resolution."
The Senate is expected to vote around 1:45 p.m. ET.
Here's the text of the resolution:
The White House said on Wednesday it is entertaining a proposal raised by Russian President Vladimir Putin to interrogate Americans in exchange for assistance in the ongoing US investigation into election interference, putting the White House at odds with the State Department, which called the idea "absurd."
Putin raised the idea in his summit talks with President Trump on Monday, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
Note: Sanders indicated on Wednesday no final decision had been made but that the proposal was under consideration.
Here's exactly what Putin has proposed:
- Putin suggested special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators could come to Russia.
- There, they'd be allowed to question the two dozen Russians that have been charged with interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
- In return, Putin said he would expect the US to allow Russian investigators to question what he called fugitives on American soil.
- The Americans wanted for questioning by Moscow include Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, and American-born financier Bill Browder, who successfully lobbied the US government to impose new sanctions on Moscow.
- Trump called the notion an "interesting idea" during his press conference with Putin in Helsinki.
The idea hasn't gone over well in DC
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright slammed the White House for considering the Russian proposal — especially the possible interrogation of McFaul.
Rep. Eric Swalwell said that if Trump agreed to turn over the former ambassador to Russia for questioning, it could be grounds for impeachment.
And Hillary Clinton tweeted this:
Republicans voiced their displeasure, too. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham called the proposal “absurd” and “naive” and said everyone in Congress opposes this idea. GOP Sen. John Cornyn also pushed back and said interviewing witnesses was not going to happen.
At 1:45 p.m. ET today the Senate will vote on a resolution related to Putin’s proposal. Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. Chuck Schumer said, "No president can put one of our fine servants who have worked hard for the diplomatic core at risk," and predicted the resolution would "pass unanimously."
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said President Trump has "managed to confuse everybody" with his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin
"Everybody wonders what is going on in the United States. He has managed to confuse everybody," she said. "He's confused about what he's confused about, because there's absolutely no logic to what he's been saying."
She said she's concerned that no one other than Trump and his interpreter was in the meeting with Putin — and the White House has given no specifics about what was said during them.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is calling for Trump's interpreter who attended his one-on-one meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin to testify about what she heard.
"I think given the President's performance in the last week — let alone the last year and a half — it would be naive not to have that concern. I think these are the kind of extraordinary circumstances where we ought to subpoena the interpreter, we ought to bring the interpreter in. behind closed doors, and find out did the President make concessions to Putin, did the President share classified information with Putin?"
He joins several other Democrats who have called for Trump's interpreter to testify before Congress, including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Joe Kennedy.
However, Lindsey Graham says the interpreter should "absolutely not" testify, saying such a move would mark the "last time" a President and a foreign leader would ever meet privately.
Watch more from Schiff:
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has been frequently critical of Trump's behavior toward Russia including the President’s press conference Monday with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, told CNN on Thursday that the President's behavior was "unbelievable" and openly wondered whether the Russians had something on Trump.
"I've been trying my best to give the President the benefit of the doubt and always expressed potential other theories as to why he behaves as he does with respect to Russia generally and Putin specifically," Clapper told New Day.
"But more and more I come to a conclusion after the Helsinki performance and since, that I really do wonder if the Russians have something on him."