McConnell: Russia should not be admitted to G-7

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that Russia should not be readmitted to the Group of Seven (G-7), breaking with President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE, who has repeatedly floated having Moscow attend the group's summits. 

Asked if Russia should be let back into the economic group, McConnell told reporters, "Absolutely not." 

Trump said late last month that he wanted to expand the group of countries that take part for the next meeting, including inviting Russia. The president spoke with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIs Ukraine Putin's Taiwan? Democrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE earlier this month when, according to a White House readout, they "discussed progress toward convening the G7."

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Russia was ousted from the then-Group of Eight in 2014 to punish Moscow for annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Trump's warmer rhetoric toward Moscow has been a perennial headache for himself and Republicans. Congress passed new sanctions on Russia in 2017 despite pushback from the White House. 

McConnell previously said in 2018 that Russia should not be allowed back into the economic group after Trump floated allowing it back in. 

The relationship with Moscow is back in the spotlight following multiple reports that the U.S. intelligence community concluded months ago that a unit within the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, secretly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants for attacks on coalition forces, including Americans, in Afghanistan last year.  

The New York Times reported on Friday that administrations officials had deliberated potential response options, but the White House had not authorized any further action.

Trump defended his suggestion earlier this month that Moscow be allowed to attend the meeting, calling it "common sense."

"It's not a question of what he’s done, it’s a question of common sense," Trump said. "We have a G-7, he’s not there. Half of the meeting is devoted to Russia and he’s not there."