Vladimir Putin made an absurd argument for why he can't respond to accusations of Russian election interference

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  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said during an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly that he would not be able to respond to the US’s accusations of Russian election interference if the underlying conduct did not violate Russian law.
  • The US intelligence community concluded last year that Russia-linked actors interfered in the 2016 US election on specific orders from Putin.
  • When Kelly pressed him about the different facets of Russia’s meddling and the recent indictment of over a dozen Russian nationals and three Russian entities, Putin said the request had to move through “official channels” and not through the press or “yelling and hollering” in Congress.
  • President Donald Trump, who has been reluctant to confront Russia over its aggression, has not publicly commented on whether he will pressure Putin to deliver the defendants.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that he cannot “respond” to the US’s accusations of Russian election interference “if they do not violate Russian laws.”

Putin made the comment during an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly on Thursday. It was Kelly’s second interview with the Russian leader.

“Would this violate Russian law?” Kelly asked, referring to Russia’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 US election.

“I have to see first what they have done,” Putin said. “Give us materials. Give us information.”

Kelly then touched on a few facets of Russia’s meddling, which the US intelligence community said was done specifically on orders from the Kremlin itself. Kelly mentioned Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016, as well its use of bot-operated accounts to spread intentionally false stories disguised as news on social media, and sow discord throughout the election.

“With all due respect for you personally, with all due respect to Congress, you must have people with legal degrees,” Putin replied. “One-hundred per cent you do, and people who are well-educated, who must understand that we, Russia, cannot prosecute anyone if they have not violated Russian law. If you do not have a legal degree, I can explain to you.”

Kelly, who worked as a corporate lawyer before pursuing a career in journalism, said she did have a law degree.

“Then you have to understand what it takes is an official request to the general prosecutor of the Russian Federation,” Putin said. “Give us a document. Give us an official request.”

The special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities last month, charging them with conspiring to interfere in the 2016 race via a social media disinformation campaign. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said during a press conference the day the charges were announced that the Department of Justice had begun the process of negotiating with Russia to have the defendants extradited to the US to face trial.

When Kelly reminded Putin about Mueller’s indictment, he said the request “has to go through official channels, not through the press or yelling and hollering in the United States Congress.”

While the US is currently going through extradition proceedings, it’s highly unlikely the Russian government will agree to give up the defendants, in part, because they were acting on orders from the highest ranks.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, who has been reluctant to confront Russia’s meddling, has not publicly commented on whether his administration will pressure the Russian government to extradite the defendants.

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