Paul to meet Russian lawmakers in Moscow on Monday: report

Anna Moneymaker

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is planning to lead a U.S. delegation to Moscow on Monday.

Paul and other lawmakers will reportedly meet with Russian members of parliament, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachov said on Thursday. 

Paul wrote about the trip to Russia in a Politico op-ed last month, in which he argued that the U.S. should pursue a productive dialogue with the Kremlin.

{mosads}”In just a few weeks, I will take my own trip to Russia in an attempt to discuss common ground with their leaders and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions,” Paul wrote, though he did not specify a date at the time.

“I look forward to consulting with [President] Trump between his visit and mine and to working with diplomats from both countries to have a successful trip and better relationships,” Paul continued. “Millions of lives could be at stake.”

The op-ed, titled “Trump is Right to Meet Putin,” was published on the same day as Trump’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, Finland. during which Trump appeared to cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that the Kremlin hacked U.S. groups in order  the presidential election. 

Paul was one of the only GOP lawmakers who stood behind Trump’s comments, which drew aggressive backlash from members of both parties. 

Paul’s visit comes as Democrats say that a new Facebook disinformation campaign ahead of November’s midterms is evidence that Moscow moving forward with with its election meddling.

The Kentucky senator has continually downplayed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, saying the U.S. has influenced elections all over the world. 

He has also insisted the various investigations into Trump’s possible ties with Russia are a “witch hunt” and “hoax,” echoing Trump’s opinions. 

“Russia doesn’t need to be considered our friend,” Paul wrote in the July 16 op-ed. “But we certainly have overlapping interests — Syria, Islamic terrorism and energy — that require us to have an open dialogue and relationship.” 

Before the Helsinki summit, a group of GOP lawmakers spent July 4 in Moscow after several days of meetings with Russian officials, according to NPR.

The group, which included seven Republican senators and one House member, was the first congressional delegation to visit Russia since the country’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Paul’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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