Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday urged President Obama to “engage” with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Moscow granted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden temporary asylum.
“Mr. Snowden’s actions have hurt the ability of our country to protect our citizens, and I would hope that President Obama would engage President Putin on this issue and resolve it in a way that’s satisfactory to the American people,” Boehner said at a Capitol press conference.
“I’ll let him decide the best way to engage the president,” he said.
Snowden’s lawyer announced Thursday that the former government contractor, who disclosed classified information on the NSA’s secret surveillance of phone and Internet traffic, had received asylum for one year and had left the Moscow airport where he was hiding.
The move is likely to further strain relations between Russia and the U.S., which had lobbied Moscow to help return Snowden, who is facing espionage charges in federal court.
Lawmakers quickly blasted Putin’s decision to allow Snowden to stay, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) saying the action “could not be more provocative and is a sign of Vladimir Putin’s clear lack of respect for President Obama.”
Sen. John McCain said the decision should be met with “serious repercussions,” calling it a “slap in the face of all Americans.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) noted Thursday that dealings between the United States and Russia "have not been on a positive track" even before the Snowden episode, and warned that the asylum offer "will certainly not help" to thaw that icy relationship.
But Hoyer largely declined to comment on Thursday's developments, saying he's withholding his assessment "until I learn from the president their judgment."
—Mike Lillis contributed