- Top Senate Democrats are doubling down on calls for President Donald Trump not to meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.
- Their urging comes one day after the special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers on hacking charges.
- In a letter sent Saturday, the senators said there “must be other Americans in the room” at the meeting and that Russia’s election interference must be the “top issue” of the two leaders’ discussion.
Top Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him not to meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a planned summit in Helsinki, Finland on Monday.
The senators wrote there “must be other Americans in the room” at the meeting, where they also stated “Russia’s attack on our election” should be a “top issue”.
“[Russian President Vladimir Putin] is a trained KGB intelligence veteran who will come to this meeting well-prepared,” the letter said.
Sens. Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Mark Warner, Robert Menendez, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Sherrod Brown, and Jack Reed signed the letter. The signers sit on the Senate Armed Services, Appropriations, Banking, Foreign Relations, Judiciary and Intelligence committees.
Saturday’s letter comes just after the special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers suspected of playing a role in the DNC before the election. The indictment was a monumental development in the ongoing Russia investigation because it marks the first time Mueller has directly pointed a finger at the Russian government for its efforts to meddle in the election.
“We hope that you will use the opportunity of a meeting with Mr. Putin to advance a well-coordinated US message, supported by senior leaders in your own administration, to hold Russia accountable for its unacceptable behaviour,” the letter said.
Lawmakers also urged Trump to act on the advice of other federal agencies, saying “you must rely on the expertise and the experts of the State Department Defence Department, CIA and other US government agencies – not wing it on your own.”
This letter is the latest development in calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for Trump to cancel the meeting.
Schumer, the top-ranking Senate Democrat, released a statement after the indictments were made public Friday, in which he said Trump’s continuing friendliness with Putin “on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy.”
Schumer’s statement also took aim at Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the special counsel’s investigation, saying “these indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a frequent Russia critic, also said in a Friday statement Trump should cancel the meeting if he “is not prepared to hold Putin accountable” for Russia’s “ongoing aggression towards the United States and democracies around the world.”
Despite the outcry from Congress, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday the meeting would go on as planned.
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