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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 Shelby (Ala.) told reporters on Monday evening that he’s invited GOP Sens. Steve Daines (Mont.), John Thune (S.D.), John Kennedy (La.), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and John Hoeven (N.D.), as well as Rep. Kay Granger (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. 

{mosads}”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 Trump. 

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 Johnson (R-Wis.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Jeanne Shaheen (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.

Tags Donald Trump Jeanne Shaheen Jerry Moran John Barrasso John Hoeven John Kennedy John Thune Kay Granger Richard Shelby Ron Johnson Steve Daines
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