Vladimir Putin jokes about giving political asylum to James Comey
Russian President Vladimir Putin has joked that he's willing to offer former US 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 US of leaking classified information.
Comey's decision to release records of his conversation with US President Donald Trump to the media is "very strange", Putin said during his annual call-in show on Thursday (Friday NZT), in response to a question from a factory executive from the southern city of Volgograd on Comey'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 US. "He should know this."
Putin began his answer by 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 US election.
He also noted that 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 US-Russia relations, Putin said he hoped that would happen but warned the current US political climate isn't conducive to it. "We see what is going on in the US. It's clearly a sign of an escalating domestic political struggle. There's nothing we can do about it."
- The Washington Post