Rand Paul delivers Putin letter from Trump

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GOP Sen. (Ky.) said on Wednesday that he delivered a letter from to Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of his weeklong trip to Moscow.

“The letter emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges,” Paul said in a statement.

I was honored to deliver a letter from President Trump to President Vladimir Putin’s administration. The letter emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges.

– Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) August 8, 2018

Spokespeople for Paul directed questions about the letter, which was given to representatives of Putin, to the White House.

“At Senator Paul’s request, President Trump provided a letter of introduction,” deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said in statement. “In the letter, the President mentioned topics of interest that Senator Paul wanted to discuss with President Putin.”

Paul has emerged as one of Trump’s most vocal allies on Russia, even as the president’s warmer rhetoric, including trying to cast doubt on Moscow’s 2016 election interference, has sparked bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill.

In addition to delivering the letter, Paul met this week with Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council Committee on Foreign Relations, and invited Russian lawmakers to Washington, D.C.

He also met with former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, saying he understood the “critical necessity of engagement” between the United States and Russia.

A group of GOP lawmakers, led by Sen. (Ala.), also traveled to Russia last month.

But despite the trips, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are becoming increasingly concerned that the Kremlin is interfering in the 2018 midterm elections.

Sen. (Mo.), one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, said late last month that Russian intelligence agents had targeted her staff with an attempted breach ahead of the November midterms.

Senators are mulling legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia. Paul voted against a round of sanctions last year.

He also blocked a resolution last month from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to support the intelligence community’s findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election and back Trump sitting down with special counsel Robert Mueller.

“We should stand firm and say, ‘Stay the hell out of our elections,’ but we should not stick our head in the ground and say we’re not going to talk to them,” Paul said from the Senate floor.

-Updated at 12:54 p.m.