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Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders

The Hill logo The Hill 8/17/2018 Jordain Carney

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he will ask President Trump this weekend to lift sanctions against top Russian officials so they can visit the United States later this year.

Paul said members of both bodies of Russia's legislature had agreed to come to the United States to continue talks after the GOP senator visited Moscow earlier this month.

"They have both agreed to come to Washington in the fall for further meetings. That's a good thing. The downside is the chairman of each of the committees is banned from coming to the United States because of sanctions," Paul told Fox News's Laura Ingraham.

He added that to overcome the blockade he will ask the president, when they talk this weekend, to "take people off the list who are in the legislature."

Paul didn't specify who specifically he would ask be removed from U.S. sanctions lists.

But Paul met with Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, during his trip to Moscow. Kosachev was targeted during a new wave of sanctions announced earlier this year.

Paul's trip to Moscow raised eyebrows in Washington, where many of his colleagues have been skeptical of Trump's warmer stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Spokesmen for both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told The Hill last week that they had not invited, and we're not discussing inviting, their Russian counterparts to visit the Capitol.

Kosachev indicated earlier this month 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 at the time.

But a spokeswoman for Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said an invitation had not been extended on behalf of the committee.

Paul has emerged as one of Trump's most vocal defenders on Russia, even as many of his colleagues are increasingly concerned that Moscow will try to meddle in the upcoming midterm election.

But not every GOP senator is closing the door to meeting or talking with Russian officials.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who traveled to Moscow last month, said there was an interest in developing a "task force."

"Identify half-a-dozen legislators on both sides that meet on a regular basis, develop a relationship, so you can really have an agenda," he told The Washington Examiner.

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Hill

Asked about Paul's offer, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he was also open to having their Russian counterparts visit the Capitol.

"That's been fairly traditional ... but I guess it had been more or less suspended for the last couple of years. ... I think it's fine for adversaries to talk. I think that's better than not talking," he said.

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