A prominent Senate Republican says that he delivered a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on President Donald Trump’s behalf, and that he opposes any retaliatory sanctions against Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election.
Senator Rand Paul announced the delivery on Wednesday following meetings with various leaders in Russia. who he has since said should visit Washington to hold discussions and ease tension between the two countries.
“I was honoured to deliver a letter from President Trump to President Vladimir Putin’s administration,” Mr Paul wrote in a tweet. “The letter emphasised the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges”.
Mr Paul is one of Mr Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress, and said on Monday that he plans on doing everything he can to obstruct further sanctions on Russia, a measure that Democrats have pushed for.
A White House spokesperson, after Mr Paul's announcement, later confirmed the president had written a letter to his Russian counterpart: "At Senator Paul's request, President Trump provided a leter of introduction. In the letter, the President mentioned topics of interest that Senator Paul wanted to discuss with President Putin".
Video: Sen. Rand Paul Invites Russian Lawmakers to Visit the Capitol
The senator from Kentucky indicated he thinks that diplomacy with Russia — a country that has disagreed with the US on issues such as Syria and Ukraine — is a top priority.
“I am pleased to announce that we will be continuing this conversation,” Mr Paul said Monday after a meeting with Konstantin Kosachyov, the chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee. He also met with former Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak.
“We have agreed and we have invited members of the foreign relations committee of Russia to come to the United States to meet with us in Washington,” he continued. “I think this is incredibly important. And those who believe in either country that we should not have diplomacy are greatly mistaken”.
Mr Paul’s visit to Russia marks the second time that a US political delegation has been dispatched to the country in the past month.
“There is sanctions hysteria in the United States at the moment. I represent the minority. All Democrats are now happy that new sanctions are being introduced,” Mr Paul said, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
“I can tell you I will try not to allow them to do this with ease,” he continues, according to that Russian news agency.
Mr Paul was one of Mr Trump’s most vocal supporters last month after the president came under bipartisan fire for appearing to say that he trusted Mr Putin’s word over American intelligence agency analysis of meddling in the 2016 election.