A former high-level diplomat from President George W. Bush’s administration said Friday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller could have waited until after next week’s Trump-Putin summit before announcing indictments against 12 Russian military intelligence officers.
“It could have just as well waited until the president had left Europe,” John Negroponte, a former deputy secretary of state, told journalist Krystal Ball in an interview that will appear online Monday. Ball co-hosts the program “Rising,” on Hill.TV.
Negroponte, who also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and is a former director of national intelligence, added that he believes the Trump-Putin summit should proceed, regardless of the indictments.
“If it’s been scheduled, it’s important that these two heads of state meet,” Negroponte told Ball, according to the Hill. “Russia is a permanent member of the [U.N.] Security Council, it’s a nuclear weapons state, it has global reach — whether it’s in the Middle East, or in the Korean Peninsula, or elsewhere — and I think it behooves us to have that kind of dialogue.”
“If it’s been scheduled, it’s important that these two heads of state meet. Russia is a permanent member of the [U.N.] Security Council, it’s a nuclear weapons state, it has global reach … and I think it behooves us to have that kind of dialogue.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Friday that Mueller had charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with crimes related to the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Rosenstein said Trump was briefed about the indictments earlier in the week and was “fully aware” of them before the announcement, Business Insider reported.
The presidents of the U.S. and Russia are scheduled to meet Monday in Helsinki, Finland. Trump has faced pressure from lawmakers in both parties to raise the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 election during the meeting with Putin.
Others, in wake of the indictments, have urged Trump to simply cancel the meeting.
“Cancel the Putin meeting. Now,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted Friday.
Trump told reporters Friday morning that he planned to address election meddling with Putin, but he believed the Mueller investigation was a “witch hunt.”
“I think that we’re being hurt very badly by the — I would call it the witch hunt,” Trump said during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the Washington Post reported.
Trump then addressed the meddling issue.
“I know you’ll ask, ‘Will we be talking about meddling?’ And I will absolutely bring that up,” the president said, according to the Post. “There won’t be a Perry Mason here, I don’t think, but you never know what happens, right? But I will absolutely, firmly ask the question.”