Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would “never” extradite the 13 Russian nationals indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into 2016 election meddling.
“Russia does not extradite its citizens to anyone,” Putin told NBC's Megyn Kelly during an interview.
Although Putin indicated he would consider evidence brought by United States investigators, he said they didn't represent the Russian state or authorities.
“I do not know what they were guided by,” Putin added.
Putin's comments came amid suspicion that the Russian government used entities like the Internet Research Agency to meddle in U.S. elections.
The indictment claimed “unwitting” Trump campaign associates communicated with some of the defendants.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said, however, that the indictment contained no allegations that anyone wittingly participated in meddling:
DAG Rosenstein: New indictment contains no allegations Americans wittingly participated in Russian meddling, nor that meddling influenced the outcome of the 2016 election pic.twitter.com/wM4RmhNRqx
— IJR (@TheIJR) February 16, 2018
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion and argued that his Justice Department should focus more on former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Last month, for example, Trump told Americans to “ask [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions” why Democrats' crimes weren't under investigation:
Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation? Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
He also said on Monday that former President Barack Obama engaged in a scandal “Bigger than Watergate” when he investigated Trump's 2016 presidential campaign:
Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November? Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2018
“Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win,” Trump said in reference to his former opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Watch Putin's interview above, via MSNBC.