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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Trump says he ‘might’ ask Putin to extradite accused Russian hackers

Indictments issued by special counsel Robert Mueller allege hackers released thousands of stolen Democratic emails

The Air Force One, carrying US president Donald Trump, arrives at Helsinki International Airport. Getty Images
The Air Force One, carrying US president Donald Trump, arrives at Helsinki International Airport. Getty Images

US President Donald Trump says he may ask his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during their Monday summit meeting to extradite to the US the 12 intelligence officers accused of attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking in an interview with CBS Evening News aired on Sunday, Mr Trump also sought to temper expectations about how much could be achieved.

Asked whether he would press his Russian counterpart to send US members of the Russian military intelligence agency accused of hacking Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, he said: “Well, I might.

“I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it, but again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.”

Speaking before the summit in Helsinki, Mr Trump added that his Republican Party had also been the target of Russian hacking efforts but had superior cyber security measures in place.

“I think the DNC (Democratic National Committee) should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked,” he said. “They had bad defences and they were able to be hacked. But I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans too. But – and this may be wrong – but they had much stronger defences.”

CNN reported in January last year that then-FBI Director James Comey told a Senate panel that “old emails” of the Republican National Committee had been the target of hacking – but the material was not publicly released – and there was no sign the current RNC or the Trump campaign had been successfully hacked.

The indictments issued on Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller allege that the Russian hackers publicly released tens of thousands of stolen Democratic emails and documents using “fictitious online personas”.

Mr Mueller is investigating a possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

“If the Russians wanted to exfiltrate data from the RNC and use it against Donald Trump, they would have done so,” Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff said to CNN on Sunday.

While Mr Trump blamed the administration of former president Barack Obama, not Russia, after the indictments, US Ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman said that “Russia is guilty of involvement and mischief in our election this last go-around.”

He said the summit is important as the start of a dialogue, not only about election meddling but a range of issues.

Mr Huntsman told Fox News that the president “is genuinely looking forward to sitting across the table and trying to reduce the tension in a relationship where our collective blood pressure is off-the-charts high.”

The two presidents have shared personal bonhomie in the past, but beyond the alleged hacking of the US election, their countries are deeply divided on a host of other issues including Syria and Ukraine.

Before coming to Europe, Mr Trump predicted his meeting with Mr Putin could be the “easiest” stage of a tour that included stops in Brussels and Britain.