President Vladimir Putin joked that he’s willing to offer former FBI Director James Comey asylum, comparing him to Edward Snowden, the ex-National Security Agency contractor who took refuge in Russia after being accused in the U.S. of leaking classified information.
Comey’s decision to release records of his conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump to the media is “very strange,” Putin said during his annual call-in show on Thursday, in a response to a question from a factory executive from the southern city of Volgograd on the ex-head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It’s bizarre “when head of an intelligence service makes a record of his conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks this conversation to the media via a friend,” Putin said. “How then is the director of the FBI different from Mr. Snowden? Then he’s not a head of an intelligence service, he’s a human-rights activist.”
The Russian president added facetiously that his country is ready to offer Comey asylum if he’s prosecuted in the U.S. “He should know this.”
Putin began his answer saying he hadn’t followed the testimony closely. But he displayed rather detailed knowledge of what Comey had said, noting that he had not provided evidence of alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election. He also said Comey said there was no sign Russian interference had affected the vote count. “Thank God for that at least,” Putin said.
Asked about prospects for improving U.S-Russia relations, Putin said he hoped that would happen but warned the current U.S. political climate isn’t conducive to it. “We see what is going on in the U.S. It’s clearly a sign of an escalating domestic political struggle,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Henry Meyer, Stepan Kravchenko, Ilya Arkhipov