WASHINGTON – Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday he had delivered a letter from President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of his effort to improve relations with Russia.
"I was honored to deliver a letter from President Trump to President Vladimir Putin’s administration," the Kentucky Republican announced on Twitter. "The letter emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges."
Paul's office did not respond to questions about the contents of the letter or how it was delivered. But White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said it was a "letter of introduction" to Putin that Trump wrote at Paul's request. "In the letter, the president mentioned topics of interest that Sen. Paul wanted to discuss with President Putin,” he said.
A Kremlin spokesman confirmed that the letter was delivered and was making its way to Putin.
"Yes, indeed the letter was received through diplomatic channels. We expect that the president’s administration will receive it shortly," said the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Paul, who is in Russia this week for meetings with top Russian officials, has emerged as a key ally for Trump in his campaign for warmer relations with Moscow. On Monday, Paul invited a Russian delegation to visit Capitol Hill this fall.
Russia wants relief from sanctions passed by Congress, which is punishing Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Those meetings come as Trump has waffled on whether to invite Putin to the White House as a follow-up to their meeting in Helsinki last month. That summit was widely criticized on Capitol Hill for Trump's failure to side with U.S. intelligence officials who say Putin was responsible for Russia's theft of Democratic emails and use of social media propaganda in 2016.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has opposed inviting Putin to address Congress, telling reporters last month, “That’s something we reserve for our allies."