U.S. White House on Thursday rejected the request of Russia President Vladimir Putin to interrogate several U.S. citizens, including a former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
In a statement, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said that the request "is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin" in his earlier meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on July 16 in Finland, "but President Trump disagrees with it."
She added that "hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt," referring to the 12 Russian hackers indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on July 13 for interfering with the U.S. 2016 presidential elections.
The White House's belated remarks came after the Russian Prosecutor General's Office on Tuesday reportedly requested to question several U.S. individuals over their criminal behaviors in Russia. McFaul, a famed critic of Putin, and his several colleagues, were among them.
The initiative was first voiced by Putin during his meeting with Trump. To the surprise of many, the White House was reported to be reviewing the demand.
Sanders said earlier on Wednesday that "the President is going to meet with his team" over the issue and "there was some conversation about it, but there wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States" during the Trump-Putin meeting.
The possible decision to allow Russian investigators to question U.S. former diplomats has sparked further fury and suspicion on Capitol Hill. Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell was quoted by media as saying that if Trump allowed Russians to question McFaul, "you can count on me and millions of others to swiftly make you an ex-president."
Republican Senator Marco Rubio also urged the White House on twitter to "publicly & unequivocally rule it out."
For his part, McFaul tweeted earlier that he expects U.S. government to defend him and his colleagues "in public and private."