Republicans Spent Their July 4th Week in Moscow Having Meetings with Russian Officials
It’s not just Donald Trump who is anxious to check in with the home office. On Tuesday, a group of seven Republican senators made a visit to Moscow where they met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other Russian officials, including former ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The meeting came on the heels of the release of a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee in which they confirmed the assessment of US intelligence agencies that Russia not only interfered in the 2016 election, but did so with the explicit purpose of harming Hillary Clinton’s chances and helping Donald Trump. According to the Washington Post, Russian leaders were quick to deny their involvement. And Republican senators were quick to ignore the issue.
Senator Richard Shelby: I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth.
None of the senators who made the pilgrimage to the Kremlin—Richard Shelby (R-AL), John Kennedy (R-LA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KN), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Thune (R-SD), and Ron Johnson (R-WI)—were among the members of the Intelligence Committee. They were all certainly aware of the multiple reports from the intelligence community, but they may well have missed seeing that final report from intelligence: Because the Republican senators arrived in Russia early so they could visit St. Petersburg and attend a ballet. Shelby may claim to be unaware that the committee found serious this, considerable that, and major amounts of so forth.
The meeting with Duma leaders where Shelby made his remark wasn’t the only time Republicans waved off confronting Russian officials about election interference. According to CNBC, recorded remarks in a meeting with Lavrov included no mention of election meddling.
The meeting with Russian officials also generated a different kind of mystery than just “What are they doing over there talking nice with a country that is conducting an ongoing cyber war against our nation.” Because while pictures of Senator Steve Daines showed him at the table in Moscow on July 4, his Twitter stream included comments about how great it was “to be in DC to celebrate the 4th.”
As it turns out, Daines wasn’t actually posting from a Republican mock-up of America’s capital. His jet had landed in DC minutes before his post, and he actually did arrive in time to see at least some of the fireworks he featured in his tweet. Republican senators didn’t actually spend all of July 4th in Moscow—they split their time between the Russian headquarters and the US sales office.
No Democrats were included on this trip. Notably, neither was a single Republican senator up for election this fall. However, they were accompanied by Texas Republican Representative Kay Granger, who will appear on the ballot in the Texas 12th (for the eleventh time) this fall. Previously, a pair of Republican senators dropped a trip to Russia after Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen was denied a visa. Apparently, the time for acting insulted by that action has now expired.