After Putin Says Jews Interfered in U.S. Election, Lawmakers Call for Russians to Face Trial

Democratic leaders shot back at Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday after he claimed that minority groups, including Jews, could have interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats in the House and Senate called on President Donald Trump to extradite the 13 Russian nationals who were indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into election interference in 2016.

In a letter published Monday, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), among others, said that it is imperative for the Russians to stand trial in order to prevent future attacks on the country’s democratic process.

"The Russian government's efforts to interfere with American democracy have not abated since the 2016 election and likely have intensified. It is extraordinary and confounding how little your administration is doing to counter Putin's campaign to undermine our grand democracy," the letter read. 

The letter came in response to an interview Putin gave to NBC news, in which he vowed never to allow Russian citizens to be extradited, but suggested it’s possible those responsible for election interference weren’t ethnic Russians but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews with Russian citizenship.

03_10_Putin Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with regional female entrepreneurs ahead of the upcoming International Women's Day during his visit to the Samara bakery and confectionery factory in Samara, Russia March 7, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters

The comments were immediately slammed by Jewish leaders who claimed they are rooted in a hatred and paranoia of Jews. The comments also demonstrate how deeply linked the Russian leadership’s views of ethnicity are with concepts of national loyalty.

Putin appears to be saying that a Jew or ethnic Ukrainian couldn’t possibly have meddled in the U.S. elections on behalf of the Russian government, even if that person had Russian citizenship. There were a little over 200,000 Jews in Russia in 2002, according to a census published that year, but demographers estimate that the number has decreased substantially over the past several decades. 

Groups such as Jews and the Tatars, a Turkic ethnic group, were routinely mistreated in the Soviet Union where Putin came of age.

The 13 people recently indicted by Mueller’s investigation were all Russian citizens. The team is investigating whether members of the Trump campaign collaborated with Russians to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections. The indictment says 13 Russians, including one known to have a close relationship with Putin, had “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign.” The indictment also claims that the Russians worked for a troll farm called the Internet Research Agency, which used social media accounts to stir up racial tensions and divisive political issues in order to influence the election results.

For now, it appears unlikely the individuals will be extradited. Russia’s constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens in most cases, particularly for a political conviction. Washington and Moscow do not have an extradition agreement at the moment.