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 ShelbySenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl How the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal MORE (Ala.) told reporters on Monday evening that he's invited GOP Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesLand conservation tax incentives should inspire charitable giving, not loopholes Montana governor visiting Iowa amid talk of possible 2020 bid Will Senate GOP try to pass a budget this year? 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) MoranThe Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency 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 GrangerSenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl On 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 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 TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border 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 BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants 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.