WASHINGTON — The indictments of a dozen Russian military intelligence officers in the alleged 2016 election hacking scheme drew immediate calls for their extradition to face criminal trial in the U.S.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) captured the pervasive sentiments among Democrats in Congress — and among liberals nationwide.
“In light of today’s indictment, and if the President is going to persist in attending a summit with Vladimir Putin, he must take the forceful but necessary steps to stand up for the United States and defend our national security against the Kremlin’s campaign to undermine democracy at home and abroad,” Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
“First, President Trump must demand that Putin hand over all of the Russian spies indicted by the United States for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Menendez added.
The response from Russia came from the top, and came quickly.
Will Russia extradite the suspects?
“Never. Never. Russia does not extradite its citizens to anyone,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told NBC News.
It that sounds familiar, it may be because we’ve heard it before. After Special Prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III’s office indicted 13 other Russia nationals in February, alleging interference in the 2016 election, Putin vowed his country would “never” extradite any of them.
Russian law sharply restricts extradition, Russia rarely extradites citizens to the U.S. and no extradition treaty exists between the two countries.
But if the suspects travel abroad, they could be extradited — depending on other countries’ relationship with and willingness to cooperate with the U.S.
In early June, Mueller’s office indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who prosecutors said has ties to Russian intelligence, on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The indictment alleged Manafort — who is jailed awaiting his first criminal trial — and Kilimnik attempted to persuade two witnesses to tell investigators that their lobbying for the pro-Russia Ukraine occurred in other countries but not in the U.S. Kilimnik has not yet appeared in court.