White House walks back Biden comments on cybercriminal swap with Russia

The White House on Sunday rejected comments from President Biden that he would be “Open” to the exchange of cyber criminals with Russia.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told the press aboard Air Force One that Biden did not speak of “exchange or barter” when he appeared receptive to Vladimir Putin’s offer that the Kremlin would extradite cybercriminals if the US replied in the same way.

“He’s not saying he’s going to trade cyber criminals with Russia,” Sullivan said of Biden.

“There are no cybercriminals who have committed crimes in Russia that he watches and thinks, ‘I’m going to exchange them,'” Sullivan said.

“I think that was overread or misread in the press that came out.”

Biden had been asked about Putin’s proposal at the conclusion of the G-7 summit of heads of state and government in Great Britain.

“I am open to any crimes against Russia,” said Biden.

“That the people who commit these crimes are housed in the United States, I undertake to hold him accountable.”

But after the comments became widespread, Sullivan said the president was not responding to the specific proposal to swap criminals.

“He said that if Vladimir Putin wants to come and say, ‘I am ready to make sure that cybercriminals are held accountable,’ Joe Biden is quite ready to come up and say, ‘Cybercriminals are being held accountable in America’ – because they already are, ”Sullivan said.

“This is something we do when we know someone is committing a cybercrime, be it against a domestic or a foreign target, we act against them,” he added.

Putin’s offer came during an appearance on state television on Sunday ahead of a scheduled conversation between the two leaders in Geneva, Switzerland that is expected to focus on ransomware attacks.

“If we consent to the extradition of criminals, Russia will of course do so, we will, but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees and extradites the criminals in question to the Russian Federation.” Putin said SEE ALSO“Will get in trouble with the staff”: Biden lets us through how he deals with the press

“The question of cyber security is currently one of the most important, because shutting down all types of systems can lead to really difficult consequences.”

Early Sunday, at a press conference to mark the closing of the G-7, Biden joked that if he didn’t just answer questions from the pre-planned list of reporters, he would get “in trouble” with staff. The President’s staff is known to handle this carefully he takes questions from the press.

Last month he cracked media representatives “I’m not supposed to answer all these questions” after the White House meeting on the coronavirus vaccine and infrastructure plan.

Biden is planning a solo press conference after meeting Putin.

Biden said this would “avoid a competition over who can do better before a press conference to try to embarrass each other”.

“The bottom line is I think the best way to deal with this is for him and I to meet, he and I have our discussion,” Biden said. “I will make my point of view on the outcome of the meeting clear and he will clarify from his point of view how it turned out,” said the President.

A version of this report appears on NYPost.com.

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