Displaying his trademark rollicking sense of humor, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered former FBI Director James Comey asylum in Russia on Wednesday, in case he is prosecuted for helping release contents of his memo to the media.
During a televised Q&A on the Kremlin-controlled TV network RT yesterday, Putin said that he had not followed Comey's testimony before Congress but was aware of it. “It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend. … How, in that case, does he differ from [Edward] Snowden?” the Russian president asked, referring to the National Security Administration whistleblower who was granted asylum in Russia.
He continued: “That means he is not the leader of the security services, but a human-rights defender. And if he faces pressure, then we are happy to offer him political asylum, too."
During a Congressional hearing last week, Comey said he allowed a friend to release to the media portions of a memo he wrote about interactions with President Trump in which Trump demanded "loyalty" and intimated that he wanted to establish "patronage" with the FBI director. Trump has called this illegal leaking. U.S. legal experts have said that Comey's action did not violate any laws.
During the broadcast, a man from Arizona who said he was a "friend of Russia" called in and asked Putin how he could combat "racist Russophobia" in the United States.
“I don’t think I have the right to give you any advice, but I want to thank you for your position, and we know that we have a lot of friends in the United States,” said Putin.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a new package of sanctions against Russia that would limit Trump's ability to relieve sanctions without Congressional approval.
This was not the first time Putin trolled the U.S. recently. Last month, he modified his denial that Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential election by saying that if it had happened, it would have been done by Russian "patriots" making a "contribution."