A U.S. senator says he has delivered a letter from President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin calling for more talks and exchanges between the two countries.
Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, a Trump supporter who has been in Moscow in recent days holding discussions with Russian lawmakers, said Wednesday, "I was honored to deliver a letter from President Trump to President Vladimir Putin’s administration."
In a Twitter remark, Paul said the letter "emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges."
The White House said the letter was requested by Paul.
“At Senator Paul’s request, President Trump provided a letter of introduction. In the letter, the President mentioned topics of interest that Senator Paul wanted to discuss with President Putin,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said.
Both Trump and Putin have invited each other to their respective capital cities in the aftermath of last month's Helsinki summit between the two leaders. But no new meeting has been scheduled and the White House said it was delaying a Putin visit to Washington until 2019, by which time it said it expects special counsel Robert Mueller's criminal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to be completed.
Trump was widely criticized in the U.S. for his performance at the Helsinki summit as he appeared to embrace Putin's denial that Russia had interfered in the election, equating the Russian leader's stance with the U.S. intelligence community's finding that Russia had sought to help Trump win. In a joint news conference with Trump, Putin said he did want Trump to win because then-candidate Trump had said he wanted to improve U.S.-Russian relations.
Back in Washington, Trump clarified his remarks and has said that Russia interfered, but has continued to call the claim that Russia tried to help him win and Mueller's investigation "a big hoax."