(CNSNews.com) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday offered to allow Special Counsel Robert Mueller and U.S. officials to travel to Russia to witness the questioning of the 12 Russian intelligence officers that were indicted by a U.S. grand jury last week of hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee in an effort to interfere with the 2016 election.
“Now let’s get back to the issue of these 12 alleged intelligence officers of Russia. I don’t know the full extent of the situation, but President Trump mentioned this issue, and I will look into it,” Putin promised during a joint press conference with President Donald Trump in Helsinki, Finland.
Putin cited a treaty dating back to 1999, called the Mutual Assistance on Criminal Cases, saying Russia has “an acting and existing agreement between the United States of American and the Russian Federation.”
“This treaty is in full effect. It works quite efficiently. On average, we initiate about 100, 150 criminal cases upon request from foreign states,” the Russian leader said.
“For instance, last year, there was one extradition case upon request sent by the United States, so this treaty has specific legal procedures we can offer. The appropriate commission headed by Special Attorney Mueller. He can use this treaty as a solid foundation and send a formal and official request to us so that we would interrogate. We would hold the questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes, and our law enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States,” he said.
If that’s not sufficient, members of Mueller’s commission can travel to Russia, Putin said, to witness the questioning of the defendants by Russian officials.
“Moreover, we can meet you halfway. We can make another step. We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission, headed by Mr. Mueller—we can let them into the country, and they will be present at this questioning, but in this case, there is another condition, and this kind of effort should be a mutual one,” Putin said.
“Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate, and they would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States, whom we believe are—who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia,” he said.
The Russian leader said his country would likewise be interested in questioning Putin critic and CEO of London-based Hermitage Capital Management Bill Browder, saying Browder allegedly contributed $400 million to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and earned over a billion dollars on Russian soil but did not pay taxes to Russia or the U.S.
“And we have to request the presence of our law enforcement. For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes – neither in Russia, nor in the United States, and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent huge amount of money – $400 million – as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. While that’s their personal case, it might have been legal – the contribution itself – but the way the money was earned was illegal,” Putin said.
Furthermore, he accused U.S. intelligence officers of guiding the transactions in question and called for their questioning as well.
“So we have a solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions, so we have an interest of questioning them. That can be a first step, and we can also extend. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework,” Putin said.
“And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?” a reporter asked.
“Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S. relationship back to normal,” Putin replied.
Putin was asked why Americans and Trump should believe Putin’s statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 presidential election given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided and whether Putin would consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials indicted by a U.S. grand jury.
“As to who is to be believed and to who is not to be believed. You can trust no one if you take this. Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America, and I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation,” Putin said.
The Russian president said both leaders have common interests and are looking for ways to reconcile their differences.
“We should not proceed from the immediate political interests that guide certain political powers in our countries. We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense,” Putin said.
“Just like the president’s recently mentioned, yes, the public at large in the United States had a certain perceived opinion of the candidates during the campaign, but there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about it,” he said, adding that it is a “usual thing.”
Trump first replied to the question, saying, “the whole concept of that … came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly they should have been able to win, because the Electoral College is much more advantageous for Democrats as you know than it is to Republicans.”
“We won the Electoral College by a lot – 306 to 223, I believe. And that was a well fought battle. We did a great job, and frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question, but just to say it one time again, and I say it all the time. There was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign,” he said.