During his annual “Direct Line” question-and-answer session with the Russian people on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin likened former FBI director James B. Comey to Edward Snowden and sarcastically offered to grant Comey political asylum if he “faces some sort of persecution” for disclosing conversations with President Trump.
Putin’s remarks came during a four-hour session broadcast on state TV and in front of a studio audience that — hey, wait a second, is that Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin in the background?
Yeah, that’s Ovi.
Putin and Ovechkin, of course, are hockey-playing pals. In 2015, Ovechkin joked that Putin “probably costs too much” for the Capitals to sign and in October wished the Russian president a happy 64th birthday on Instagram. Ovechkin frequently returns to his homeland during the offseason, so it’s not all that surprising to see Ovechkin and Putin together in the same room.
It is, however, somewhat remarkable that Ovechkin was sitting behind Putin for Thursday’s Q&A five days after Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins joined Trump and two others for a round of golf in New Jersey. What’s next, John Wall sharing a McDonald’s hot chocolate with Angela Merkel or Xi Jinping?
Last month, while wearing full hockey gear, Putin told a reporter that “we have nothing to do with it” when asked about Comey’s firing. On Thursday, with Ovechkin in the audience, Putin joked that he’d grant Comey the same political asylum as he did Snowden, who has been living in Russia since 2013.
“It looks weird when the chief of a security agency records his conversation with the commander in chief and then hands it over to media via his friend,” Putin said. “What’s the difference then between the FBI director and Mr. Snowden? In that case, he’s more of a rights campaigner defending a certain position than the security agency chief.”