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 ShaheenSunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails MORE (N.H.) and GOP Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillary advisers battle over whether she’ll run in 2020 Rubio defends '3 point kick' analogy: 'You think everyone who follows politics knows what a field goal is?' Lawmakers to introduce bipartisan bill targeting China's treatment of Muslims MORE (Fla.) and Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonUS firm goes on lobbying blitz in fight with Angola Trump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally House conservatives want ethics probe into Dems' handling of Kavanaugh allegations 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.


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.