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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 TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills 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 SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas MORE (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration Biden pushes expanded pathways to citizenship as immigration bill lands in Congress MORE (N.J.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinMurkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Democrats ask FBI for plans to address domestic extremism following Capitol attack Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts MORE (Ill.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzLittle known Senate referee to play major role on Biden relief plan Bipartisan group of lawmakers proposes bill to lift rule putting major financial burden on USPS Warren to join Finance panel overseeing taxes, health care 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 (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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 FlakeKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Tanden's path to confirmation looks increasingly untenable On The Money: What's next for Neera Tanden's nomination MORE (R-Ariz.) and Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsPelosi's '9/11-type' commission to investigate Capitol riot could prove dangerous for Democrats Key players to watch in minimum wage fight Sunday shows - Trump acquittal in second impeachment trial reverberates MORE (D-Del.) and another from Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKlain says Harris would not overrule parliamentarian on minimum wage increase Romney-Cotton, a Cancun cabbie and the minimum wage debate On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (I-Vt.) — were blocked earlier Thursday

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo 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 CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand 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 GrahamPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general 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 CornynPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities 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.