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Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials

The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution warning President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE not to let the Russian government question diplomats and other officials, shortly after the White House released a statement backpedaling on a proposal to allow Moscow to help interrogate U.S. citizens such as former Ambassador Michael McFaul.

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Senators voted 98-0 on the resolution spearheaded by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers MORE (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezTrump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it Blame Senate, not FBI, for Kavanaugh travesty Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints MORE (N.J.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight GOP senators: Mnuchin should not go to Saudi Arabia MORE (Ill.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Graham: Saudi’s findings on slain journalist not 'credible' Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Democrats, McConnell spar over entitlements | Minnesota AG sues drugmakers over insulin price hikes | CDC investigates polio-like illness MORE (Hawaii).

“That President Trump would even consider handing over a former U.S. 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 ahead of the vote, which was scheduled before the White House backtracked.

The nonbinding resolution comes amid growing frustration in the Senate over the White House's warmer stance toward Moscow, especially after the joint summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump earlier this week.

The potential that Trump could allow Russia to question U.S. officials had been in the headlines since the summit in Helsinki.

Putin said during a press conference with Trump on Monday that the Kremlin would permit special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s team to travel to Russia and attend the questioning of 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted in the probe, if Russia is allowed to help interrogate some people “who have something to do with illegal actions in the territory of Russia.”

The White House initially refused to shoot down the proposal. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that Trump was “gonna meet with his team” to talk about the potential for Russian officials to question U.S. citizens.

But Sanders on Thursday released a statement backtracking on the proposed arrangement.

“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," she said in her statement.

The resolution, which the Senate voted on shortly after the new White House statement, states that the U.S. "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."

Democratic senators had been expected to ask for unanimous consent to pass the resolution, which would have allowed any one senator to block it. Two other Russia-related resolutions — one from Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona Watch live: Trump speaks at Arizona rally Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi disappearance MORE (R-Ariz.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDem senators urge Pompeo to reverse visa policy on diplomats' same-sex partners 15 Saudis identified in disappearance of Washington Post columnist The Senate needs to cool it MORE (D-Del.) and another from Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue Bernie Sanders' age should not disqualify him in 2020 Small-dollar donations explode in the Trump era MORE (I-Vt.) — were blocked earlier Thursday

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Schumer: Fight for Senate is 'neck and neck' Nikki Haley powerfully rebuts Trump MORE (R-Ky.) set up the Thursday afternoon vote, giving lawmakers the chance to go on record as they face intense pressure to pass new Russia legislation after the Helsinki summit and the indictment of 12 Russian nationals for meddling in the 2016 election.

A simple majority was needed to pass the resolution. Democrats, and some Republicans, had been highly critical of the idea of allowing Russian officials to come to the U.S. for interrogations. 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Schumer: Fight for Senate is 'neck and neck' MORE (R-Tenn.), while calling the resolution “somewhat meaningless,” summed up the proposal as a “bad idea.”

“I have no idea how that’s even come into consciousness,” Corker said.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Trump calls Saudi explanation for journalist's death credible, arrests 'good first step' MORE (R-S.C.), a sometimes ally of the president’s, told The Hill on Thursday that allowing Russia to question Americans would be “absurd and naive.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, dismissed the potential agreement as “terrible” offer.

“There was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States,” Sanders said. “The president will work with his team, and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.”

Russian state media reported that McFaul and Christopher Steele, author of the so-called Steele dossier, are among those whom Russia wants to question as part of its investigation into Bill Browder, an American-born financier who lobbied on behalf of legislation that imposed sanctions against Russia. 

Updated: 8:57 p.m.