Trump Says He May Ask Putin to Extradite Intelligence Agents
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he may ask Vladimir Putin to extradite 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted Friday for hacking Democratic email accounts during the 2016 campaign, and said he has “low expectations” for his summit Monday with the Russian leader.
“I go in with low expectations,” Trump said in excerpts of an interview with CBS News released Sunday. “I’m not going with high expectations.”
A U.S. grand jury issued an indictment against the agents on Friday, charging them with hacking into email accounts controlled by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The charges stem from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election and any involvement by Trump’s campaign, a probe the president has repeatedly derided as a “witch hunt.”
Trump was briefed on the indictments last week but said in the interview he hadn’t considered asking Putin to extradite the agents to the U.S.
“Well, I might,” Trump said after CBS News anchor Jeff Glor asked about it. “I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.”
The Kremlin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump and Putin are to meet Monday in Helsinki, in a summit that the president’s critics fear could lead to him relaxing U.S. sanctions against Russia, recognizing Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, or other concessions.
The indictment -- which for the first time revealed explicit details of the Kremlin’s election influence operation, including the names of the intelligence agents alleged to be involved -- are overshadowing the summit. Members of Congress in both parties have called on Trump to either confront Putin over Moscow’s interference in the election or cancel the meeting altogether in protest.
Trump has expressed reluctance to call Putin to account for the election meddling and has indicated he accepts the Russian leader’s denials at face value. In June, Putin allowed that non-state actors in Russia -- people he likened to “artists” -- may have taken it upon themselves to launch the cyber-attacks on Clinton’s campaign and the DNC.
“If they’re patriotically minded, they start making their contribution,” Putin told foreign journalists.
Trump has sought to turn blame on his predecessor, Barack Obama, for Russia’s election attacks, saying in tweets on Saturday that the former president did nothing to prevent it and little to punish Moscow afterward. He told CBS News that the Democratic Party was also to blame for not better securing its computer equipment.
“The DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked,” Trump told Glor. “They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked. But I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans too. But -- and this may be wrong -- but they had much stronger defenses.”
Trump said in the interview that “nothing bad” would come from the summit, and listed his recent meetings with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and China’s Xi Jinping.
“I think it’s a good thing to meet. I do believe in meetings,” he said. “I believe that having a meeting with Chairman Kim was a good thing. I think having meetings with the president of China was a very good thing. I believe it’s really good. So having meetings with Russia, China, North Korea, I believe in it.
“Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out,” the president said.
Trump indicated to Glor that he hasn’t decided whether to meet alone with Putin to start their summit, as he said he would last week. Senate Democrats, after urging Trump to cancel the meeting altogether following the indictments, wrote him on Saturday to warn against a one-on-one meeting with Putin, himself a former intelligence agent.
The two leaders are also expected to hold a news conference to conclude the summit, where they are all but certain to face multiple questions about the indictment from U.S. reporters.
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