McConnell, Ryan: Congress Won't Welcome Putin if He Visits D.C.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell / Getty Images
July 24, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be welcome at the U.S. Capitol if he visits in the fall.

President Donald Trump announced Putin’s invitation to the White House later this year, but he will not be invited to a speak before a joint meeting of Congress, the Hill reports. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) concurred with McConnell, who declared Putin unwelcome when he spoke to reporters.

"I can only speak for the Congress. The Speaker and I have made it clear that Putin will not be welcome up here, at the Capitol," McConnell said.

Ryan said separately "we will certainly not be giving him an invitation to do a joint session."

Prominent foreign leaders invited to Washington, D.C., often speak before Congress. French President Emmanuel Macron did so earlier this year, as have others, such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has not yet accepted Trump’s invitation, saying Putin will have other chances to meet Trump. This comes on the heels of the two leaders’ summit last week in Helsinki, Finland, in which Trump said Putin was "strong and powerful" in his denial of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

After Trump returned to Washington, Trump walked back his comments at the summit, saying he misspoke when he said he saw "no reason why it would be Russia" that interfered with the election. He said he meant to say he saw no reason why it wouldn’t be Russia that interfered, as U.S. intelligence officials have concluded.

Trump said in that statement that others besides Russian may also be culpable, and then he tweeted about the investigation into Russian activities in the election as a "hoax." He has said he wants to have a good relationship with Putin and thereby improve relations between the United States and Russia, although he said Putin must reciprocate or else Trump will "be the worst enemy he's ever had."

He also said if Russians did interfere with the 2018 midterm elections, they would support Democrats.

McConnell said Russia must absolutely not interfere in future elections.

"Well, I think we all know the Russians interfered in the last election. The question is are they going to do it again," McConnell said Tuesday. "The Russians better quit messing around in our elections. I want to make that perfectly clear."