Daines says congressional visit to Russia "sent a strong message - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Daines says congressional visit to Russia "sent a strong message"

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In a press call on July 9th, Senator Steve Daines opened up about his role in a congressional delegation that had visited Russia the week before.

Daines was part of an eight-person commission of seven Republican Senators and one GOP House Representative to visit Moscow with stops in Finland and Norway.

The trip drew some news coverage and marked the first time a United States congressional delegation has visited Russia since the country’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014; a move that, at that time, garnered international outrage and led to Russia’s suspension from the G-8 summit.

And although the delegation was originally scheduled to meet with Vladimir Putin, they instead spoke with Russian officials and U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, Jr.

During the press call, Daines said it was a priority for the American politicians to address the elephant in the room: Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

According to the senator, the delegation wanted to make it clear that the U.S. is united across the political spectrum in its condemnation of Russia’s interference.

“I think it sent a strong message to the Russians that this is an issue that both sides of the aisle are very concerned about,” Daines explained. “It was the very first issue we brought up in virtually every meeting we had, was ‘Do not interfere in U.S. elections.’ It’s very clear from our intelligence reports that they did attempt to interfere in the U.S. elections in 2016.”

Senator Daines expressed that if the Kremlin again tried to interfere with elections in the U.S., tougher sanctions would be imposed on Russia, which could lead to a potential trade war. It would be a trade war that Daines says could be incredibly destructive to both countries, and should be avoided at all costs.

When the Bozeman native was questioned about why the delegation was made up solely of Republicans, he explained that he felt that actually made their message even clearer.

“We put them on notice: ‘You better not do that in 2018,’” Daines said. “I think it sent a strong message that it was a group of Republicans that were confronting the Russian government on election interference.”

And according to Daines, election meddling wasn’t the only hardline the group took on contentious issues between Russia and the U.S. He and his constituents expressed the importance of upholding the sovereignty of neighboring Ukraine, demanded an end to Russia’s treatment of Crimea, and stressed a Russia-U.S. working relationship to bring peace to Syria.

Daines arrived back in the United States in the afternoon on July 4, and returned to Montana on Air Force One with President Trump for the July 5 Great Falls rally.

Following the delegation’s visit to Russia, President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018.

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