Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to U.S. President Donald Trump at the beginning of a one-on-one-meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In the only two indictments obtained by Robert Mueller’s investigation that have any bearing on the reason for his investigation, a total of 25 Russian nationals have been indicted for a range of crimes allegedly perpetrated during the 2016 campaign season. I’m on record as viewing these indictments of people who will never be apprehended as nothing more than a public relations exercise by Mueller to convince an increasingly weary and skeptical public that he’s doing something more substantial than carrying out a political vendetta against President Trump. I say this because the Russian constitution (yes, I laughed writing that) forbids the extradition of Russian nationals–see Article 61. This is a fact that Mueller is presumed to have known. And because the GRU officers indicted were working under color of law in their home country. It sort of puts Mueller in the position of looking a lot like a Spanish judge indicting US troops for their actions in Iraq.
Today, in Helsinki, standing beside President Trump, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin made Mueller an offer:
Putin said later in response to a question that U.S. investigators possibly could come to Russia to participate in the questioning of suspects after a dozen Russian intelligence officers were indicted in the United States on charges of election interference.
Elaborating, Putin said representatives of the Mueller probe could be present at interrogations of suspects in Russia — as long as Russians would be able to do the same at the questioning of U.S. intelligence agents that Moscow suspects of carrying out crimes on Russian soil. Any questions about Russian interference in the U.S. elections, he said, should be resolved by the courts and according to existing intergovernmental agreements.
“Let the Mueller commission send us a request, and we will do the work necessary to respond,” Putin said. “We can expand this cooperation — but we will then also expect from the U.S. side access to people who we believe are members of the intelligence agencies.”
While this is simply Putin trolling Mueller and playing on Trump’s ego, it points to the recklessness of what Mueller has done in indicting Russian intelligence officers and criminalizing official acts committed on Russian soil. To try to prove to his fanbois that he’s actually doing something, he is potentially putting large numbers of US intelligence operatives at risk for reciprocal treatment. While the Russian constitution prohibits extradition and there is no extradition treaty between the US and Russia, Russia does, as John Bolton observed, have an extradition treaty with the EU which makes the arrest and extradition of US intelligence operatives a very real possibility.
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