On a day when America celebrates its independence from tyranny, Republicans broke with precedent to meet with a tyrannical regime that tried to undermine American democracy.
This is not The Onion: Eight members of Congress, all Republicans, spent America's Independence Day in Russia.
Seven senators — John Kennedy (R-LA), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Thune (R-SD), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) — and one House member, Kay Granger (R-TX), are all in Moscow over the Fourth of July holiday this week for talks with Russian lawmakers and officials, according to reporting from the Washington Post, NPR, and investigative reporter Julia Davis.
This news is shocking for a number of reasons.
First of all ... it was the Fourth of July, for crying out loud. On a day where America celebrates its independence from tyranny and the establishment of its democracy, Republicans broke with precedent to meet with a tyrannical regime that tried to undermine American democracy by meddling in the 2016 elections.
Secondly, this week marks the first time in four years that a U.S. congressional delegation has gone to Moscow, and the first time since Russia annexed Crimea, which set off a firestorm of international criticism and led the U.S. to impose sanctions on Russia. Recently, however, Trump has suggested that Russia should not be punished for its illegal annexation.
Third, you might think it makes sense to send U.S. lawmakers to Russia in order to pave the way for Trump's scheduled summit with Putin on July 16. But as NPR reports, this trip was actually planned before the summit was announced.
And of course, this news breaks as Republicans in Congress are already facing criticism for protecting Trump and bashing U.S. intelligence agencies — even when doing so could mean helping Russia and compromising our democratic elections.
So far, reports of what Republicans said to Russian officials are not encouraging to anyone who hopes the GOP might put country over party.
According to the Washington Post, Kennedy described Tuesday's meeting as "damn frank, very, very, very frank, no holds barred," and claimed that he "asked our friends in Russia not to interfere in our elections this year." ("Friends"? Really?)
But Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov described the meeting as "one of the easiest ones in my life," and claimed that election meddling was only brought up "in general form" and was resolved quickly.
Meanwhile, Shelby was even less confrontational than Kennedy. "I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,” he said during a plenary session at the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.
Republicans also met with Sergey Kislyak — yes, the same Sergey Kislyak who secretly met with numerous members of the Trump campaign, including disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Kislyak is now a member of the upper house of parliament.
The U.S. intelligence community has been very clear that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential elections in order to help Trump get elected — and that Russia will probably try again to target the 2018 midterms.
Trump, however, continues to publicly cozy up to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. He even insists that we should believe Putin when he says Russia had nothing to do with election meddling.
And while the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee quietly released a report this week saying that Trump is wrong, the Republicans "investigating" this issue in the House have loudly backed Trump for months, often using smears and conspiracy theories to do so.
It's now clearer than ever: the GOP party line is to support Trump no matter what, and to look the other way as Russia actively tries to destroy American democracy.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.