While most Americans were busy celebrating our nation’s independence, GOP leaders spent July 4 (along with the two days leading up to it) meeting with Russian officials in Moscow.
By all accounts, the meeting went well… for the Russians.
Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, for example, stopped short of condemning Russia for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.
“I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,” Shelby told Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin. “I’m saying that we should all strive for a better relationship.”
Civics Lesson: Sergey Lavrov
Sergey Lavrov is Russia’s foreign minister. According to the Steele Dossier, Lavrov was the mastermind behind intervening in the 2016 U.S. election. The Steele Dossier, published in 2017 by BuzzFeed, is a private intelligence report that details the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Photo: Sergey Lavrov. Attribution: Golden Brown / Shutterstock
On July 3, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its findings on whether or not the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. The committee concluded that Russia did in fact try to influence American voters to support then-candidate Donald Trump, a verdict that has been echoed by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Despite these reports, Senator Shelby still tried to befriend Moscow officials.
“We come here realizing that we have a strained relationship, but we could have a better relationship between the U.S. and Russia, because we have some common interests around the world that we could hopefully work together on,” Shelby told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “We could be competitors, we are competitors, but we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries.”
But Shelby wasn’t the only one cozying up to foreign rivals.
Louisiana Senator John Neely Kennedy also stopped short of condemning Russia for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election, even though he seemed to acknowledge that it took place.
“I asked our friends in Russia not to interfere in our elections this year,” Kennedy said.
Why exactly were these Republican senators hobnobbing with Russian officials? We’re sure it wasn’t exactly because they wanted to mend fences over accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Perhaps it’s because, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News, the Republican party was the recipient of millions of dollars in funding from Russian oligarchs linked to Putin.
Or maybe it has something to do with Putin’s efforts to woo the American right by positioning himself and Russia as the last bastions of conservatism.
“Russia has been targeting the American right since at least 2013, the year Putin enacted a law targeting pro-gay rights organizations and delivered a state-of-the-nation address extolling Russia’s ‘traditional values’ and assailing the West’s ‘genderless and infertile’ liberalism,” a 2017 Politico article stated.
Whatever the reason for the Republicans’ visit, Russian officials called the meeting the most “significant” U.S. congressional visit in about a decade.