Shameful Behavior by the White House

There should be no question about a request to interview a former US Ambassador.

Via the WSJ:  White House Weighs Allowing Russia to Question Ex-U.S. Envoy

The White House is reviewing a request by Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow Russian investigators to question a number of Americans they say are implicated in criminal activity, including a former U.S. ambassador, a spokeswoman said.

The White House decision to weigh the proposal rather than dismiss it outright prompted alarm among former diplomats and on Capitol Hill.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed Wednesday that Mr. Putin and President Donald Trump discussed a desire by Russian authorities to question a number of U.S. citizens, including Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama who now lectures at Stanford University.

Asked at Wednesday’s daily briefing whether Mr. Trump was “open to having U.S. officials questioned by Russia” including Mr. McFaul, Ms. Sanders replied, “There was some conversation about it but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States. The president will work with his team, and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.”

It is jaw-dropping that the President of the United States did not automatically and immediately refuse to allow a foreign government, especially an authoritarian government, to question a former US Ambassador.  Especially since the implication of such a situation is that the US government would help compel McFaul to participate in the interview as an official act.

This is utterly amazing and is yet another example of where I cannot understand how supporters of this administration can defend this behavior by the president.

“Those who serve the U.S. government must know that they will not be put in jeopardy, or offered up as bargaining chips to authoritarian dictators,” said Dan Shapiro, who was ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration. “President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the administration need to shut this travesty down immediately.”

Indeed.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Steven, here’s why supporters of the administration can defend his behavior:

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/07/17/nolte-helsinki-is-one-of-trumps-finest-moments/

    They believe that.

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  2. JKB says:

    Where is this “jeopardy” that keeps getting brought up. Government consider requests to question their diplomats as part of investigations in countries all the time. Access is either granted or denied on the merits of the request. It is not something to refuse out of hand. Diplomatic immunity still holds.

    On the other hand, by leaving this open, Trump gives the media, should they really care in spite of their feigning, to put the Magnitsky affair back on the international news cycle. Of course, there are those nasty allegations of money going to Clintons (denied by Browder, and clarified down to the more believable $400,000 by the Russian prosecutors) and the keeping of the propaganda indictment by Mueller out in the open with the risk of challenges and refutations coming out in the media.

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  3. CSK says:

    @CSK

    Corrected URL in my comment above.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:

    Access is either granted or denied on the merits of the request.

    This is not a serious proposal…it is Putin trolling the US by pretending our legal systems are the same. The fact that your dear leader is even willing to consider it shows that he is a Russian asset…whether wittingly or not.
    Additionally, your continued support of a Russian asset, as the leader of this nation, makes you a traitor to your country.

    17
  5. Hal_10000 says:

    @JKB:

    No, this is not normal. We do not turn over ambassadors for questioning. It was an insane request in response to Trump’s equally insane request that Putin turn over some GRU officers for questioning. There was no way Putin was going to do that, ever. So he responded the way Putin does: OK, well we’ll do that if you [stupid thing you would never in a million years do]. It was meant to be a middle finger response. And Trump is so dense, so inexperienced and so unwilling to learn how the world works that he took it seriously. It’s as if I asked you for both of your kidneys and you responded by asking for my lungs and I said, “that’s a great offer! I’ll have to think about that!”

    CSK, that Nolte piece is one of the most deranged things I ever read. Or at least started to read. Once he proclaimed Trump’s response to Charlottesville to be a show of moral strength, my eyes went black with rage and I passed out.

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  6. James Pearce says:

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

    Translation: “It came up, but I’m in the dark as much as you. Nothing to announce though, so…”

    Why are we still looking to the White House press operation for answers? They’re a disinfo operation. Huckabee-Sanders isn’t up there to answer questions from reporters. She’s there to contain and manipulate them with spin and distortion.

    11
  7. CSK says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I know; I felt the same way as you. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The Trumpkins live in a parallel universe. Or something. It is deranged that anyone, anywhere could possibly interpret Trump’s speech after Charlottesville as an exemplar of great moral courage.

  8. al Ameda says:

    The White House is reviewing a request by Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow Russian investigators to question a number of Americans they say are implicated in criminal activity, including a former U.S. ambassador, a spokeswoman said.

    The White House decision to weigh the proposal rather than dismiss it outright prompted alarm among former diplomats and on Capitol Hill.

    This unacceptable bullsh** just won’t stop.
    On the other hand, in the interest of fairness to the Administration, I’ll give Trump credit, this does distract people from his Supreme Court nominee.
    Of course that could change in about 45 seconds.

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Let’s all be clear on what Dennison is telling us:
    Russia (who attacked, and continues to attack, our democracy) is our friend.
    The press (an essential element of our democracy) is our enemy.

    Seriously?
    You cannot look at this man’s words and actions and think he is anything but a tool of Putin. Whether he is doing it willingly, or is being manipulated because he is too simple minded to know any better…we do not know. Yet. We do know enough, right now, to see that he should not be in office one single day longer.

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  10. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..It is deranged that anyone, anywhere could possibly interpret Trump’s speech after Charlottesville as an exemplar of great moral courage.

    You mean like this deranged stinking bigot Trump supporter. Brother of JKB, TMzero, Bungles and the others who are always “sitting up straight at attention” when their Supreme Leader spews his bile.

    David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard, is unambiguous about what Saturday’s alt-right and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, means to him: It’s the fulfillment of President Donald Trump’s vision for America.
    “We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said from the rally, calling it a “turning point.” “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
    Vox

  11. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Trump also received the endorsement of Stormfront for the exact same reasons.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    McFaul has been an outspoken critic of Trump. In Trump’s view of the world, what else matters?

  13. Gustopher says:

    @Hal_10000:

    We do not turn over ambassadors for questioning. It was an insane request in response to Trump’s equally insane request

    I keep hearing people say that that Trump is entertaining the notion of handing a former ambassador over, but if my fading memory serves me well, all that was suggested was questioning. I had assumed that meant Russian investigators coming here — did Dotard Trump actually suggest that he would send the ambassador to Russia?

  14. @Gustopher:

    I had assumed that meant Russian investigators coming here

    Probably, but that is still utterly unacceptable. It also implies the Trump administration would compel McFaul to cooperate.

  15. de stijl says:

    What’s the line on Jon Huntsman resigning? Why would he not?

  16. LankyLoo says:

    I’m surprised that no one, at least that I’ve seen or read, is talking about how Trump’s White House is considering allowing the Russians to question the former ambassador, but didn’t ask that the 24 indicted Russians be turned over to American law enforcement. Only days before 12 additional indictments came through, but the only question is whether or not we’ll turn over Americans to Russia.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JKB: “Access blah blah blah…”

    Okay. The request has no merits and is denied. Easy peasy.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Probably, but that is still utterly unacceptable. It also implies the Trump administration would compel McFaul to cooperate.

    I do think it is important to make the distinction though, as the people who are suggesting that Trump would “turn over Americans to Russia” are over-reacting. Ahem, LankyLoo.

    I might be splitting hairs, but I think this is merely unacceptable, not utterly unacceptable.

    I don’t think the administration has a way to compel an individual to cooperate with a solely foreign government investigation. There is likely a way through the court system, with checks and balances of one form or another, and if the evidence was credible — although at that point I would expect that we would have our own investigation.

    In fact, I think we should have open congressional hearings on whether our former ambassador to Russia funneled $400,000 to $400,000,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Let’s see the evidence, out in the open. The Russian investigators should be invited to watch as anyone might be, as well as to testify about their evidence, and provide questions they have for the former ambassador.

    What’s the worst that could happen?

  19. LankyLoo says:

    @Gustopher: fine, I over spoke.

    Our justice department has indicted 24 Russians in connection to hacking, theft, and direct involvement in illegal electioneering that directly involves on of the presidential campaigns in the last election. Related to guilty pleas by former members of Trumps cabinet and campaign.

    Why are we not asking for their extradition, but are entertaining the idea of compelling a former ambassador to assist in what looks to be an attack on political rivals?

  20. @Gustopher:

    I might be splitting hairs, but I think this is merely unacceptable, not utterly unacceptable.

    I think the best interpretation is utterly unacceptable and the worst interpretations are well beyond that.

    An authoritarian government is requesting the chance to interview in some capacity a former US Ambassador. That is something that should be automatically shut down. Period.

    And while the current administration may not have the authority to compel McFaul, the entire implication of the request and the contemplation thereof is that such compellence is possible.

    McFaul, or any former US foreign service officer of any rank, should never have to worry about such an action.

  21. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    McFaul, or any former US foreign service officer of any rank, should never have to worry about such an action.

    And yet Trump just put that on the table as an acceptable negotiable give-and-take because he fancies himself as the ultimate deal-maker who cannot possibly be snookered.

    Why would any foreign service professional or appointed ambassador not be alarmed to the point of resignation over this? He has undercut their very existence. What is the point where you cannot morally continue – you want to outlast and eventually overcome the foolishness and unprofessionalism by sheer dogged perseverance, but you do not want to be seen as condoning Trumpism. What is the uncrossable point?

    JKB approves of Putin’s request and Trump’s response. Astounding!

  22. dazedandconfused says:

    It is unacceptable, but did Trump know that??

    We elected an impulsive reality Tee Vee host as POTUS, one that is both incurious and exceptionally unwell read. It’s almost as if we elected a 7th grader, and one that did not sit in the front of his classrooms…not never-ever. He’s grossly unfit for office.

    Not apologizing for him, just saying that to be completely fair the abyss of his ignorance must be kept in mind.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    …just saying that to be completely fair the abyss of his ignorance must be kept in mind.

    A pity that so many of the people who voted for him don’t realize this…what does that say about them…