Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has been listed by the Russian government as a person of interest in the Bill Browder/Russia financial scam, and President Trump allegedly told President Putin on Monday that the U.S. would consider sending McFaul and Browder to Moscow for "questioning."
Browder is accused by the Russians of robber baron activities and tax evasion in the 1990s during the chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Browder surrendered his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes and now resides in the U.K.
Interpol says Russia's accusations are political and have rejected many Russian requests to arrest Browder. Eventually, Browder lobbied for Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, a law to punish Russian human rights violators by banning the adoption of Russian children by Americans, which was signed into law in 2012 by President Barack Obama. This is the "child adoption" issue that the infamous Donald Trump Jr. Trump Tower meeting with a Russian operative centered on.
"There was some conversation about it, but there wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday about the idea of sending McFaul and Browder back to Russia. In exchange for the opportunity to have McFaul and a number of other Americans questioned, the Russian president offered to let Special Counsel Robert Mueller observe interrogations of 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted last week for hacking DNC email accounts.
McFaul, who served under President Barack Obama and now teaches at Stanford University, wrote on Twitter that he hopes "the White House corrects the record and denounces in categorical terms this ridiculous request from Putin" and later joined MSNBC's Brian Williams on Wednesday's edition of 'The 11th Hour' to discuss the profound "surprise" and "disappointment" that the Trump administration is not standing up for him.
"The weird thing about that statement was the dependent clause at the beginning, 'I can't speak for the White House.' This is supposed to be one government, and time and time again on Russia it appears like we have two policies. We have one policy by the entire government, and then one policy by President Trump," McFaul said. "Number two, by not batting away this as absurd, the president is suggesting that there is moral equivalency between an indictment put out by Mr. Mueller of 12 Russian intelligence offices, with a crazy cockamamy story that makes absolutely no sense, no logical sense, that somehow the U.S. ambassador is helping money laundering."
"By not saying that these things are not equivalent, the president is suggesting there is a moral equivalency."