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 ShelbyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Schumer warns Mulvaney against drawing hard lines on budget deal MORE (Ala.) told reporters on Monday evening that he's invited GOP Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTwo GOP lawmakers back Trump's comments on Democratic lawmakers: 'I'll pay for their tickets out of this country' Former Navy officer, teacher enters race to unseat GOP senator in Montana Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out MORE (Mont.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP rattled by Trump rally GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator MORE (S.D.), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranEpstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse Bottom Line Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown MORE (Kan.) and John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal Senators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data MORE (N.D.), as well as Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerLobbying world House approves bill increasing federal worker pay House approves 3 billion spending package 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 TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' 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 JohnsonMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Trump may intervene in Pentagon cloud-computing contract: report Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE (R-Wis.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' MORE (R-Wyo.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator How to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse 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.