(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Rand Paul announced on Wednesday that he “was honored to deliver a letter from President Trump to Vladimir Putin’s administration” that he said addressed topics ranging from counterterrorism to “resuming cultural exchanges.”
The delivery of the letter comes just three weeks after the Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin that was pilloried by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The White House later released its own statement underscoring that the letter was “introductory” and written at the request of Paul.
“At Sen. Paul’s request, President Trump provided a letter of introduction,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “In the letter, the president mentioned topics of interest that Senator Paul wanted to discuss with President Putin.”
But the White House didn’t offer an explanation on why such a high-level communication between the two leaders was revealed through a senator’s office and not the West Wing’s press office, which is typically standard protocol.
Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met earlier in the week in Moscow with members of Russia’s upper house of parliament and invited them to Washington.
“My goal in coming to Russia is to say that we want to have open lines of communication,” Paul said at a press conference after the meeting.
Paul has been one of the president’s most vocal defenders in recent weeks, defending Trump for appearing to accept Putin’s denials of U.S. election interference.
The White House and Trump have separately sought to beat back criticism that the president failed to confront Putin directly on Russia’s election meddling when given the chance.
“They wanted me to go up and have a boxing match,” Trump said in a Pennsylvania rally last week. “I said, whatever happened to diplomacy?”
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