In an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his government is prepared to go after the thirteen Russians who have been accused by Robert Mueller of election interference, but only as long as they have violated Russian laws.
A preview clip of the interview posted online by NBC News shows Kelly asking Putin: “If the thirteen Russian nationals plus three Russian companies did in fact interfere in our elections, is that okay with you?”
Holding back laughter, Putin told Kelly: “I don’t care. I couldn’t care less.” Surprised by his blunt answer, Kelly simply retorted: “You couldn’t care less?”
Putin explained his apathetic attitude: “Because they don’t represent the government. They don’t represent the interests of the Russian government. And if something really concerns you, then notify us officially. Send us a document that corroborates it. Explain to us what exactly they are being accused of, and then we’ll take a look.”
“I did that,” Kelly interjected, before Putin continued: “If they violated a Russian law, then we will bring them to justice. If they didn’t break any Russian laws, then there’s nothing to hold them responsible for. Ultimately, you have to understand that people in Russia do not live by American laws, but by Russian laws, and that’s how it will be going forward.”
Putin’s comments here are fully consistent with his past statements denying that the Russian government directed its agents to interfere in America’s 2016 presidential election.
Previously, Putin vowed that the thirteen Russians would never be extradited to the United States to face charges. This lack of judicial cooperation is in keeping with Russia’s constitution, which prohibits Russian authorities from complying with extradition requests from other governments.
Given the general lack of trust between American and Russian officials as of late, it appears unlikely that Putin would actually do anything to go after his own people, regardless of whether or not they were really working for him to send social media messages and memes to Americans during the 2016 election.