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After Putin blames Jews for election meddling, lawmakers demand he extradite indicted Russians

After Putin comments to NBC that Jews or other minorities could have been behind U.S. election meddling, top Democrats in Congress called on President Trump to boost efforts to bring indicted Russians to the U.S. for trial.
Image: Vladimir Putin
Top Democratic leaders called on Trump to use all available means to pressure Putin to hand over indicted Russians.Alexei Nikolsky / Pool via AP

WASHINGTON — Top Democrats in Congress called on the Trump administration Monday to do everything in its power to have the 13 Russian nationals indicted last month on charges of election meddling extradited to the United States to face trial.

The letter to President Donald Trump comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin told NBC News in an interview with Megyn Kelly that Jews and other minorities may have been responsible for the cyberattacks during the 2016 election.

“We write to urge your administration to devote all resources available to ensure that the Russian nationals indicted for allegedly interfering with the 2016 elections are brought to justice and stand trial in the United States,” Democrats said in the letter, which was signed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking members on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

In an NBC interview that aired Friday, Putin dismissed the evidence backing the indictments, expressing skepticism that the accused were responsible for any meddling in the 2016 election. "Maybe they're not even Russians," Putin said of potential culprits. "Maybe they're Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don't know."

The Democrats called Putin's refusal to allow the extradition of the indicted Russians "unacceptable," and said that the Department of Justice could try and secure the “fugitives” despite the lack of an extradition treaty between the U.S. and Russia.

“The Department of Justice can obtain an Interpol Red Notice, which acts like an international arrest warrant, which can severely restrict a fugitive’s ability to live and travel overseas,” they wrote. “The Department of State and your White House can also use its leverage through diplomatic channels, including by raising the issue directly with President Putin, to ensure Russia and other nations cooperate with a request for extradition.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller announced in mid-February that 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies had been indicted by a federal grand jury as a result of their efforts to support Trump’s presidential campaign and hurt the chances of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump and his administration are not doing enough to respond to Putin, the four Democrats warned, and added that Russia's efforts "likely have intensified" since 2016.

"It is extraordinary and confounding how little your administration is doing to counter Putin’s campaign to undermine our grand democracy, including the refusal to implement sanctions that passed Congress nearly unanimously," they wrote.