There are ordinary world leaders, and then their are people like Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin, who seems to be basking in the limelight of the Trump/Russia investigation, decided to troll the United States government in his annual question and answer session in Moscow earlier today.
“If there is some kind of persecution, we would be ready to offer political asylum to Mr Comey if he is persecuted in the US,” Mr. Putin said to the live audience.
The former FBI director, James Comey, fired by Trump back in May, testified last week in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding issues related to Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, and the possibility that the President may have obstructed justice while trying to convince Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. Many politicians and political pundits on the right have used the hearing to try and shift attention away from Trump and onto Comey for ‘leaking’ information about his conversations with the President to a friend. Putin clearly is using this opportunity to also shift attention from the Trump/Russia narrative to the ‘James Comey is a leaker’ narrative.
Putin went as far as comparing James Comey to Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and contractor for the U.S. government who leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency to The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald. Snowden eventually was granted asylum within Russia and remains there today.
The comments made by Putin, even if in a joking manner, shows that he seems to be toeing the same line as the Trump administration and those on the far right within the United States. It is quite clear that Comey’s alleged ‘leaks’ are in an entirely different league than those of Snowden’s. While Snowden’s leaks were of highly classified information, Comey simply provided unclassified information related to conversations he had with the President to a friend, who then provided that information to the press. While Snowden was a whistle blower, who knowingly risked his life and his career in order to inform the American public of the government’s perceived overreach, Comey simply shared details about unclassified conversations.
By offering Comey asylum, Putin is able to continue to distract the media from the real story, which is his interference in the 2016 election.