Putin is getting slammed for saying Jews might have interfered in the US election

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin made controversial statements about Jews and several other groups in Russia, shifting the blame to them for Russia's interference in the 2016 US election.
  • Jewish groups condemned Putin's remarks.
  • Putin also suggested that it was unclear who was financing the interference, and maintained that they had no ties to the Russian state.
  • The main financier of the Russian effort is a close Putin ally, US intelligence agencies have said.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia elicited sharp blowback when he claimed that even though individuals with Russian citizenship may have worked to interfere in the 2016 US elections, they may not actually have been Russian because of their Jewish faith.

Putin made the remarks during a long interview with NBC News host Megyn Kelly that aired on Saturday. When Kelly asked him about the 13 Russian nationals indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the election, Putin claimed that even though the individuals could have had Russian citizenship, they might not have been Russian after all.

"Maybe they're not even Russians," Putin said. "Maybe they're Ukrainian, Tatars, Jews — just with Russian citizenship."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and NBC's journalist Megyn Kelly walk ahead of an interview at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 1, 2018. Picture taken March 1, 2018. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talk to journalist Megyn Kelly (R) on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) at the Constantine (Konstantinovsky) Palace, Russia, June 1, 2017. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with journalist Megyn Kelly during an interview on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia, June 3, 2017. Picture taken June 3, 2017. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an interview with NBC's journalist Megyn Kelly in Kaliningrad, Russia March 2, 2018. Picture taken March 2, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an interview with NBC's journalist Megyn Kelly at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 1, 2018. Picture taken March 1, 2018. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with US NBC news network anchor Megyn Kelly prior to an interview at the Kremlin on March 1, 2018 in Moscow. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Michael Klimentyev (Photo credit should read MICHAEL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with US NBC news network anchor Megyn Kelly at the Kremlin on March 1, 2018 in Moscow. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Alexei Druzhinin (Photo credit should read ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 1, 2018: Pictured in this file image dated 1 March 2018 is journalist Megyn Kelly (L front) of NBC, a US TV network, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R front) during an interview at the Moscow Kremlin. Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev\TASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 1, 2018: Pictured in this file image dated 1 March 2018 is journalist Megyn Kelly of NBC, a US TV network, before an interview with the president of Russia at the Moscow Kremlin. Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev\TASS via Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - MARCH 2, 2018: Pictured in this file image dated 2 March 2018 are Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and journalist Megyn Kelly of NBC, a US TV network, during an interview. Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 2, 2017: US journalist and TV commentator Megyn Kelly, India's prime minister Narendra Modi, and Russia's president Vladimir Putin (L-R) at a plenary session on Day 2 of the 2017 St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2017). Vladimir Smirnov/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Vladimir Smirnov\TASS via Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA JUNE 5, 2017: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) gives an interview to NBC News Anchor Megyn Kelly on the sidelines of the 2017 St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 2, 2017: NBC News anchor Megyn Kelly, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L-R) attend the plenary session of the 2017 St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2017) held at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre. Valery Sharifulin/TASS Host Photo Agency (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 1, 2018: Pictured in this file image dated 1 March 2018 is journalist Megyn Kelly of NBC, a US TV network, before an interview with the president of Russia at the Moscow Kremlin. Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev\TASS via Getty Images)
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Tatars are a native non-European people who live in Russia. Putin's claim that someone who is not ethnically Russian cannot truly be Russian despite having citizenship elicited a sharp outcry from Jewish groups in particular who stated that his suggestion was anti-Semitic.

"President Putin bizarrely has resorted to the blame game by pointing the finger at Jews and other minorities in his country," Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. "It is deeply disturbing to see the Russian president giving new life to classic anti-Semitic stereotypes that have plagued his country for hundreds of years, with a comment that sounds as if it was ripped from the pages of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion.'"

"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is a well-known anti-Semitic book that likely originated in Russia. It has been widely used to spread mistruths about the Jewish people.

Members of Congress condemned the remarks, as well.

"Repulsive Putin remark deserves to be denounced, soundly and promptly, by world leaders. Why is Trump silent? Intolerance is intolerable," Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said on Twitter.

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
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Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia urged Trump to enforce the sanctions against Russia that Congress passed. "This man is not our friend," he tweeted.

Putin's controversial statements came amid wider comments about interference in the 2016 election — and his efforts to shift the blame from the Kremlin.

He said it wasn't clear that the individuals mentioned in Mueller's indictment had any ties to the Russian state, and that they may have worked with France, Germany, governments in "Asia," or even the US government itself.

Despite Putin's attempt to shift the blame, the Internet Research Agency (IRA) that served as the hub of the Russian interference effort was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a man who has been called "Putin's Cook" and has close ties to the Russian president.

Mueller's team, while investigating Trump's ties to the Russian government during the election, is also looking into the interference process itself. Mueller's office has charged the 13 Russian nationals and three Russian firms, including the IRA, with "violating US criminal laws in order to interfere with US elections and political processes."

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