Former Russian ambassador strongly denies Putin's 'crazy' accusations

On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Michael McFaul, ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, had a lot to say about the much-maligned summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki — specifically about an unsubstantiated accusation Putin made.

“When Putin floated that little scheme, it sounded crazy to me, right? Because he was suggesting that American intelligence officers helped this British businessman, Bill Browder, to launder money out of Russia and then help the Clinton campaign,” McFaul said.

Browder is a billionaire financier who, like McFaul, has been an outspoken critic of the Kremlin. Browder also championed the Magnitsky Act, which levied harsh sanctions against Russia. Putin said he wanted help from the U.S. in investigating the supposed money laundering. In exchange, he would help special counsel Robert Mueller’s team gain access to the 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the 2016 election. Trump called the offer “incredible,” but McFaul had a big problem with it.

“The notion that we’re going to go interview their intelligence officers, they’re going to lie to our people just like Vladimir Putin stood next to our president and lied in Helsinki,” he said. “So that was an empty offer.”

McFaul said he didn’t even know he was included in Putin’s claim until he was on a plane back to America. He said Russian journalists he knows told that he was being considered a criminal and a conspirator with Browder. It should come as no surprise that Putin would single out two people who have criticized his autocratic government as criminal, said McFaul, who vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

“Let’s be clear: I did not do that. Nobody did that,” McFaul said. “Let’s be a little stronger: This is crazy. This is crazy stuff Putin was talking about.”

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 on CBS.

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