MOSCOW, Ru. – A spokesperson for the Kremlin has publicly rejected a previously undisclosed offer by the Trump administration to cede control of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in exchange for unfettered access to a cache of deleted emails belonging to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Russia has no interest in acquiring new territories outside the boundaries of Eurasia,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin, announced during an unscheduled press conference with the international media on Friday. “There is absolutely no scenario in which the Russian Federation would benefit from an annexation of Puerto Rico – or any island in the Caribbean for that matter,” Peskov added.
Russian officials say senior members of President Donald J. Trump’s national security team reached out to them less than an hour after Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was taken into federal custody on Monday. Manafort, who faces a slew of charges including money laundering and conspiracy against the United States, is the first person to be charged in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
According to Mr. Putin’s spokesperson, the Kremlin immediately rejected the Trump administration’s initial request for more than 33,000 of Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails in exchange for the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory. “There was not even a moment’s hesitation,” Peskov told reporters, continuing, “An offer of this kind is no good for Russia; even a Chechen can see that.”
Nevertheless, the White House persisted. Official transcripts provided to The Guardian by Moscow show the Trump administration made two more attempts to seal the ill-fated deal with Russia. First, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, took a go at diplomacy Wednesday morning by offering to invest “vast sums of money” in Russia’s tourism industry. Shortly after Kushner was rejected, President Trump contacted Putin directly and told him the United States would allow Russia to place intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Puerto Rico. “I promise you, we will look the other way,” Mr. Trump was quoted as saying.
Following Friday’s impromptu press conference at the Kremlin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations filed a formal complaint against the United States and threatened to sever diplomatic ties unless the White House “ceases all efforts to dump its dirty laundry in Russia’s backyard.” Requests for comment by the White House Press Office were not returned.