GOP lawmakers plan official visit to Russia later this week

GOP lawmakers plan official visit to Russia later this week
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A group of GOP lawmakers is heading to Russia at the end of the week as part of new ”high-level" talks between the two countries, including a potential meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

GOP Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHow the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration MORE (Ala.) told reporters on Monday evening that he's invited GOP Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesMontana governor visiting Iowa amid talk of possible 2020 bid Will Senate GOP try to pass a budget this year? Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal MORE (Mont.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall MORE (S.D.), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenators optimistic about reaching funding deal GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (Kan.) and John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenDem lawmaker 'confident' bipartisan group will strike deal on border funding Congress in painful start to avoid second shutdown Republicans want Trump to keep out of border talks MORE (N.D.), as well as Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOn The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week How the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal MORE (R-Texas), to take part in the congressional delegation. 

Shelby said the group would be taking part in "high-level meetings," but signaled that they are still locking down with whom they will be meeting. 

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"I'm sure we'll have some high-level meetings. ... [Russia] at times can be an adversary. But they're somebody that I think, just like China and others, that we should be talking to. See if there's any common ground," Shelby told reporters of the upcoming trip. 

Asked about a potential face-to-face with Putin, Kennedy said they are "trying to set it up" but wasn't sure it would happen. 

"I want to talk about Russia's interference in our election, in the Brexit election, in [French President Emmanuel] Macron's election, in [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel's election and God knows how many other elections. I want to talk about Ukraine. I want to talk about Crimea. I want to talk about Syria," Kennedy told reporters, asked what he hoped to talk about with Putin if they are able to set up a meeting. 

Kennedy added that he also wants to talk about trade and the Russian economy, where, he says, Moscow is "spending a whole lot of money on guns and not very much on butter." 

The trip comes as the administration is stepping up outreach to Russia as they eye a potential summit between Putin and President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview MORE

White House national security adviser John Bolton is heading to Russia this week to discuss a potential meeting between Trump and Putin, which media reports indicate could take place next month. 

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, is helping organize the lawmakers’ trip, which comes after Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority GOP senator voices concern about Trump order, hasn't decided whether he'll back it MORE (R-Wis.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Senators highlight threat from invasive species MORE (R-Wyo.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Bipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia MORE (D-N.H.) scrapped a trip to Russia late last year because Moscow denied Shaheen entry into the country. 

U.S.–Russia relations have been rocky since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 — a move Western nations say was illegal — and soured further over Moscow's meddling in the 2016 election.