It looks like a delegation of Republican senators may be spending Independence Day in Moscow.
The group will arrive in St. Petersburg on June 30 before heading to Moscow on July 3 and 4 to meet with lawmakers, Russia's Interfax news agency reported, citing a source in the Russian parliament. On Thursday, two Republican senators, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told CNN they would be traveling to Russia "next week" at the invitation of Jon Huntsman, U.S. Ambassador to Russia. They didn't give their exact departure date.
Huntsman's counterpart, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov, told the state-run media agency TASS that a group of senators would be in Russia in late June and early July, the "Moscow Times" reported.
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Shelby said they would be there for "high level" meetings, but declined to say with whom. "We think it's good for us to talk," he said.
But Kennedy is ready to go right to the top. "I hope we're going to get to meet with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin," he told CNN. "I want to be able to meet with government officials, try to establish some rapport, talk about common interest, talk about common problems."
When asked, Kennedy said he intended to address Russian interference in the American election system. "I don't want to do anything to start an international incident but I believe in talking frankly about these things," he said.
National Security Adviser John Bolton will be in Moscow next week to discuss a potential meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report this month saying that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — adding to the long-held consensus by the U.S. intelligence agencies — Trump has repeatedly pressed to have a friendly relationship with Russia, including a summit with Putin.
Now it looks like it's in the works. CNN reports that two diplomatic sources say a summit between is tentatively scheduled between Trump and Putin for mid-July in a neutral location such as Vienna.
This week, a Republican senator said Russian trolls are actively working to increase divisions in the U.S., inserting themselves into social-media debates on immigration. "Trolls and bots are still active on Twitter trying to deceive us," tweeted Sen. Jim Lankford (R-OK). "They’re even using the current family separation & immigration debate to sow discord among Americans. It is important for social media companies to expose it so everyone knows what is fake."