Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul was touched that the Senate voted to protect him from being hauled off to a Russian dungeon – or at least that’s what the establishment crowd made it look like.
McFaul was the US envoy to Russia from February 2012 to February 2014, leaving Moscow just days after the US-backed coup in the neighboring Ukraine. His name was mentioned by Russian officials in the context of a proposal made by President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit to arrange for mutual questioning of individuals suspected of wrongdoing, under a 1999 treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.
On Wednesday, the White House said only it was “discussing” the proposal internally, but had not made any commitments. This was enough for Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), to accuse Trump of pursuing “Putin’s agenda,” with the Senate Democrats putting forth a resolution against any US officials ever being questioned by Russia.
“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,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday, shortly before the Senate vote.
This passed 98-0, just as it should. We should never need to pass a resolution reaffirming our commitment to protect U.S. ambassadors from questioning by foreign governments, but this President’s pursuit of Putin's agenda made it necessary. https://t.co/BAVLfeRQqx
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) July 19, 2018
“Bipartisanship is not dead yet,” McFaul, who believes Putin has made him his personal enemy, proclaimed, thanking the Senate for having his back with 98 votes in favor and none opposed.
The non-binding resolution was quickly hailed as a victory of the #Resistance over the “traitor” Trump and his “puppet-master” Putin, although obviously nothing short of impeachment will do.
Has the US Senate, with a majority held by the president’s own party, ever so overwhelmingly rebuked the president via resolution? https://t.co/PzYGeHbMEO
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) July 19, 2018
We finally found something that can cause the GOP not just to talk tough against Trump but actually to take unanimous action: @McFaul ! We all owe you my friend for having the toughness to stand at the center of this fight–the nation has your back. https://t.co/jfL13BlZJx
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) July 19, 2018
It's baby steps with this complicit @GOP, so we applaud the 98-0 vote, but it's just a non-binding resolution. We need real action. We need to hold up judicial nominees. We need patriots. We need impeachment. https://t.co/p1GmmNfNFD#ImpeachTrump
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) July 19, 2018
Former President Barack Obama’s ethics czar Norm Eisen might have been waxing hyperbolic, but McFaul did get elevated into an almost-martyr by the establishment, with outspoken California Democrat Eric Swalwell tweeting #ProtectMcFaul and threatening to “make [Trump] an ex-president” if he ever turns the ambassador over to Russia.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) July 18, 2018
Former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton also chimed in, coming to McFaul’s defense.
The White House cannot let another day pass without unequivocally rejecting Russia’s absurd request to interrogate @McFaul and other officials. Merely entertaining this idea betrays our diplomats, undermines our interests, and hands Putin yet another propaganda victory.
— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) July 19, 2018
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 19, 2018
A couple of voices did point out that Clinton literally failed to defend US ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, back in 2012, but to no avail. The #Resistance was determined to stop McFaul from being delivered to Moscow in irons.
Except that no one had ever asked for it. There’s no extradition treaty between the US and Russia, and even if there was, McFaul is neither a Russian citizen, nor is he facing any formal charges in Russia for Moscow to lay any claim to actually detaining him.
Instead, Putin’s proposal would have enabled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators to actually interview – almost certainly in Russia – the alleged Russian spies they had just accused of hacking Democrat’s computers in 2016, in exchange for McFaul and others answering questions – almost certainly in the US – about their possible role in financial misdeeds of Bill Browder, a man who renounced his US citizenship in 1998.
Instead, the Senate chose to declare US government officials above the law and derail an agreement that could have helped clear up at least some of the vitriol between Moscow and Washington.
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