WASHINGTON, July 19 (APP):“The US Senate on Thursday passed a resolution calling on President Donald Trump not to allow Russian officials to question American citizens, the second such motion in a week, after the White House backtracked on an earlier statement about helping Moscow interrogate US citizens that drew a strong backlash.
Passed by 98-0, the non-binding resolution, which came shortly after the White House issued a statement, stated that “the US should refuse to make available any current or former diplomat, civil servant, political appointee, law enforcement official or member of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin”.
President Putin, during his one-on-one meeting with President Trump this week, had said that his country would allow American officials to question Russians accused of conducting cyber attacks and interfere with US presidential elections, if Moscow was allowed to question some US citizens, including a former US ambassador to Russia they accused of being involved in “illegal activities” in Russia.
While the US State Department dismissed Putin’s assertions as ‘absurd’, the White House spokesperson on Wednesday did not dismiss Russia’s proposal to provide access to the Americans, including former US Ambassador to Moscow, drawing a severe criticism from lawmakers and media.
On Thursday, the White House issued a statement, seemingly back-paddling on its earlier stance, saying that there was a proposal that was made “in sincerity” by President Putin, but President Trump disagreed with.
The White House response came a day after a wave of criticism from lawmakers from both sides of the divide , and former diplomats, who were incensed over the fact that why such a proposal was not rejected outright by the President.
Speaking before presenting the resolution in the Senate on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said that even considering a suggestion to hand over a former US ambassador to Putin by the President was “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 ahead of the vote, which was scheduled before the White House backtracked.
The non-binding resolution passed by the Senate was the second in a week or so after the house passed another such motion with an overwhelming majority to express its support for NATO, which has been taken to task by the President Trump.
President Trump has long been critical of NATO members as he says that they have failed to meet their defense spending commitments. He ramped up his criticism before and after the NATO summit held last week.
A simple majority was needed to pass the Thursday resolution. Democrats, and some Republicans, had been highly critical of the idea of allowing Russian officials to come to the U.S. for interrogations.