GOP leaders: No talk of inviting Russia delegation to Capitol

Source: The Hill | August 9, 2018 | Jordain Carney

Top congressional Republicans are shooting down talk of inviting a Russian delegation to the Capitol, even as GOP Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) pitched the idea during his trip to Moscow this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have neither issued an invitation for a delegation from the Russian legislature nor are discussing it, spokesmen for the top GOP leaders told The Hill.

“Not anything we’ve discussed,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan.

Asked if the Senate GOP leader had issued an invitation or was talking about it, McConnell spokesman David Popp added that “the short answer … is no.”

The McConnell spokesman directed further questions to Paul’s office, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on details of the Kentucky senator’s invitation.

The pushback from GOP congressional leaders on hosting a group of their Russian counterparts comes after Paul raised the issue as part of his headline-grabbing trip this week to Moscow.

The Kentucky Republican said in a statement after a meeting with Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council committee on foreign affairs, that he had “invited the Russian Federation to send a delegation to the Capitol, and they have agreed to take this important next step.”

Kosachev indicated that Moscow would be interested in organizing a meeting between members of the Russian legislature and their U.S. counterparts.

“The issue at hand is trying, perhaps, to organize a new meeting, this time at the level of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee during the autumn session, that is, before the end of this year,” he told Russian state media.

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While a group of GOP senators traveled to Russia last month, Paul’s trip to Moscow — and him touting that he delivered a letter from Trump to Putin — has drawn questions.

“This is weird. I wonder how Ambassador [Jon] Huntsman feels about it? And separation of powers between executive and legislative branches is a good thing. Let senators be senators and ambassadors be ambassadors,” former Ambassador Michael McFaul said in a tweet about Paul delivering the letter.

The White House later clarified that the letter was an introduction for Paul to Putin, adding that it was requested by the GOP senator.

Paul has defended his trip, and his rhetoric, arguing it’s important to keep a dialogue open between the United States and Russia despite the sour state of relations.

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