Russia’s President Vladimir Putin mockingly quipped on Thursday that he would be “happy” to offer former FBI Director James Comey political asylum in his country, while ridiculing Comey’s claims that the Russians interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“If Comey will be under the threat of political persecution, we are ready to accept him here,” Putin told the televised press conference.
The state-run TASS news agency reported that the comment came in response to questions relating to Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee one week ago. The committee hearing centered on the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference, possible collusion between President Donald Trump‘s campaign and the Kremlin, and Comey’s firing.
During the session, Comey admitted to deliberately leaking a memo to the press detailing conversations he’d had with Trump in which the president allegedly pressured him to drop a portion of the FBI investigation. Trump denies this version of events.
Putin, however, sarcastically compared Comey’s decision to leak the memo to the actions of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower who was granted asylum by Russia. By this rule, Putin joked, Comey may also merit asylum.
“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 Snowden?” Putin joked. “He is not a head of the special services, but a human rights activist.”
The Russian president went on to, again, refute the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that his government was behind major hacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and against individual Democratic officials. Those hacks resulted in damaging revelations for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton when thousands of stolen emails were published by WikiLeaks.
“The former FBI director said there was Russian interference in the U.S. election process but again gave no evidence,” Putin said.