Browder: WH entertaining Putin proposal 'absurd'

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to interrogate one of his most vocal critics, Bill Browder, who championed the Magnitsky Act, legislation that imposed US sanctions on Russia. Browder says President Trump calling the proposal an "interesting idea" is "absurd."

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 3:30 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 3:38 PM

Bill Browder, an American-born financier who's a prominent critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, said Thursday that he wants President Donald Trump to know that turning him over to Russia would amount to a death sentence.

"To hand me over to Putin is basically to hand me over to my death," Browder said during an interview when CNN's Kate Bolduan asked him on "At This Hour" what he would say to Trump if he had the opportunity.

Putin mentioned Browder by name on Monday at a news conference with Trump in Helsinki, Finland, where the Russian President suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators come to Russia to question the two dozen Russians who have been charged with interfering in the 2016 presidential election. But in return, Putin said, he would expect the US to allow Russian investigators to question what he called fugitives on American soil.

The White House said later Thursday that Trump now disagrees with the proposal, despite the fact that a day earlier the White House had indicated it was entertaining the idea.

Browder's comments came before the White House issued its latest statement on the proposal.

"What the Russians have said very clearly on a number of occasions is they'd like to get me back to Russia ... and once I'm back in Russia, they would like to kill me. Anything that begins that process is effectively a death sentence for me," Browder said.

Browder, who pushed for the passage of legislation to sanction Russian officials over human rights abuses known as the Magnitsky Act, said Thursday he believes he is "Putin's No. 1 foreign enemy."

Browder grew up in Chicago but gave up his citizenship nearly 20 years ago and is now a British citizen. His Russian associates uncovered a massive tax fraud scheme in Russia that was prosecuted in US courts. But Putin has accused Browder of perpetrating the fraud, which Browder denies. Browder was tried in absentia and sentenced to prison in Russia, making him a fugitive of Russian law enforcement.

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