10:28 GMT +319 August 2018
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    US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    US Senate in Unanimous Vote Opposes Russia Questioning US Officials

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    The United States Senate voted 98-0 to pass a nonbinding resolution urging US President Donald Trump not to allow Moscow to interview US officials involved in criminal cases in Russia. The White House had ruled out the possibility in a Thursday statement from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders before the vote took place.

    During Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin's joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, Putin suggested that US investigators could question the 12 Russian citizens accused of being intelligence agents with Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and hacking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on the condition that Russia be allowed to question US citizens and officials involved in criminal cases.

    "It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it. Hopefully, President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt," Huckabee Sanders said hours before the Senate vote.

    Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) abstained from the vote. McCain has been out of Congress as he battles brain cancer, and it isn't immediately clear why Shelby did not vote.

    The resolution was spearheaded by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) alongside Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The Senate voted following a letter from five Democrats in the House of Representatives to the president urging him to reject the deal with Putin, Sputnik News reported.

    "That President Trump would even consider handing over a former US ambassador to Putin and his cronies for interrogation is bewildering… This body must agree on the importance of protecting our ambassadors. We should pass it today, not wait, not show any equivocation," Schumer said prior to the vote.

    Trump called Putin's proposal "an incredible offer" at the press conference on Monday. On Wednesday, Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the president was discussing the idea; on Thursday, she reported it had been dismissed.

    ​"As part of the investigation of one of the criminal cases against [Bill] Browder and his criminal group, we're ready to send another request to the US authorities to grant us permission to question these very employees of the US intelligence agencies, as well as a number of other US government officials and businessmen, in order to charge them for the crimes committed by Browder," said Alexander Kurennoy, spokesman for the Russia's Office of Prosecutor General. 

    Russian prosecutors were also seeking to interview Obama-era US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul in connection to the Browder case. Browder is the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, which is accused of funneling $1.5 billion from Russia, $400,000 of which was transferred to the Democratic Party in the US. They're also seeking former British agent Christopher Steele, who authored the infamous dossier on Trump alleging that the Kremlin had compromising material on him that could be used for blackmail.

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    Tags:
    vote, US Senate, Bill Browder, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, United States
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