U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran will celebrate the Fourth of July in Moscow during a trip in which he hopes to warn Russian President Vladimir Putin about interfering in future elections.
Moran, R-Kan., will be part of a small group of Republican lawmakers visiting Norway, Finland and Russia during the Senate’s holiday break.
The visit to Russia, which was organized by U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, occurs ahead of a planned meeting between Putin and President Donald Trump, which will take place July 16 in Helsinki.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia worked to influence the 2016 election, but his fellow Republican Moran said the evidence he’s seen from the multiple investigations is clear.
“Everything I know from the investigations indicate that Russia interfered with elections in the United States. I also believe that they interfered with elections in France and Germany,” Moran said Thursday.
And Moran said he intends to discuss election interference when he meets with members of Russia’s government.
“Over the last five years, Russia has had unacceptable behavior … and I want to learn from the leadership of Russia what we can do to change their behavior,” he said. “Interference in our elections is unacceptable.”
Moran said the lawmakers have requested a meeting with Putin but will not know for sure whether they’ll receive one until they arrive in Russia.
The Kansas Republican noted that the visit by the GOP lawmakers was scheduled before the announcement of Trump’s upcoming meeting with Putin.
“He will have a conversation with President Trump in the near future and I want to make certain that we convey to the leadership of Russia … the unacceptable nature of interfering with our elections,” Moran said when asked about what he plans to discuss if granted a meeting with Putin.
Moran said he wanted to stress to Russian leaders that Congress authorized the sanctions on the country and that they will remove the sanctions only if given assurances that election interference has stopped.
Moran’s comments contrast sharply with Trump’s rhetoric about Russia. The president has largely focused his ire on the federal investigators probing the matter.
“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!” Trump said Thursday morning on Twitter.
An hour later, Trump complained that people were being “persecuted on old and/or totally unrelated charges (there was no collusion and there was no obstruction of the no collusion)” as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort faces multiple indictments as a result of the probe, which has ensnared multiple Trump associates.
Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
In addition, 13 Russian nationals have been charged over alleged information warfare.
Moran strongly disagreed with the president’s calls for the investigation to end.
“I want Mueller to be able to complete his investigation unimpeded. And I want it to be done in a way that the American people, regardless of who they voted for president, have faith that the investigation was completed with integrity. … The outcome needs to be something where we can have faith that the truth has been determined,” Moran said.
Moran also disagreed with Trump’s reported criticism of NATO. He said that during the visit to Norway, a member of NATO, he plans to convey to that nation’s leaders that the U.S. will keep its commitments to its NATO allies.
“We have soldiers from Fort Riley who have been in Europe, most recently Poland, demonstrating our commitment to our NATO allies,” Moran added.
In addition to Moran, the Republicans on the trip include U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana and U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Texas.
Moran said for security reasons lawmakers are not allowed to share specific details about the week-long trip’s itinerary, but he said that the senators plan to celebrate the Fourth with Huntsman and the U.S. embassy staff in Moscow.