Senators warn Trump against returning compounds to Russia
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A bipartisan group of senators is urging President Trump not to return to Russia a pair of compounds in the U.S. seized under the Obama administration.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Overnight Defense: Pompeo pressed on move to pull troops from Germany | Panel abruptly scraps confirmation hearing | Trump meets family of slain soldier Shaheen, Chabot call for action on new round of PPP loans MORE (N.H.) and GOP Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPentagon forming task force to investigate military UFO sightings How Congress could diminish the risks with Electoral College count The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance MORE (Fla.) and Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonNew poll shows tight presidential race in Georgia Matt Lieberman faces calls to drop out of Georgia Senate race over 'racist and discriminatory' tropes in 2018 book Sabato's Crystal Ball shifts Iowa Senate race to 'toss-up,' Georgia toward GOP MORE (Ga.) outlined their request in a letter sent to Trump ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. 

"The return of these two facilities to Russia while the Kremlin refuses to address its influence campaign against the United States‎ would embolden President Vladimir Putin and invite a dangerous escalation in the Kremlin’s destabilizing actions against democracies worldwide," the senators wrote in the letter, sent on Thursday. 

The compounds, in New York and Maryland, were seized last year in response to Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The Obama administration also expelled 35 Russian diplomats.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sidestepped a question from Shaheen during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last month about whether the compounds were part of U.S.-Russia discussions.

Pointing to Tillerson's comments, the senators said they had "deep concern" about the future of the compounds. 

"We urge you to remove the return of these facilities from any negotiation or consideration in your discussions with President Putin during your upcoming trip," they senators wrote. 

Trump and Putin are scheduled to have their first face-to-face meeting since Trump became president on the sidelines of the annual G-20 summit in Germany.

The senators added that while they understood the administration wants greater cooperation with Russia, they could not support a deal that would "enhance the Kremlin’s intelligence gathering capabilities or overturn actions taken in defense of U.S. officials threatened by Russian officials overseas."

Tillerson told senators during the Foreign Relations hearing that they were, as part of larger ongoing negotiations, trying to figure out if there were "terms and conditions" that would allow the administration to let Russia use the compounds for "recreational" purposes but not intelligence gathering. 

Reuters reported late last month that Moscow was preparing retaliatory measures over the seizing of the compounds.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation last month that would slap new sanctions on Moscow and set up guidelines that would need to be met before the administration could hand over the compounds. 

But that bill has stalled in the House after it ran into a procedural roadblock and is getting pushback from the White House and the oil industry. 

The Senate passed a fix for the bill before they left for the Fourth of July recess meant to address the requirement that all revenue bills start in the House, but the future of the bill remains unclear.

Top House lawmakers have said they are supportive of additional sanctions, but a senior GOP aide said late last week that the bill has already hit another roadblock. 

"House Democrats are currently objecting to returning the papers to the Senate to make this fix because of procedural non-policy related issues," the aide said.