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5 Jan, 2017 00:14

Rohrabacher plans first congressional delegation trip to Russia after Trump inaugural

Rohrabacher plans first congressional delegation trip to Russia after Trump inaugural

US sanctions and other pressures revving up a second Cold War will be the focus of a congressional trip to Russia after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) has announced.

Rohrabacher, head of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, told the Washington Post on Wednesday that his subcommittee would take an “official trip” to meet with their Russian counterparts from the Duma “within a month of the inaugural.”

Rohrabacher’s congressional office did not dispute the Post’s reporting, but it did say the trip is not yet confirmed. His subcommittee’s travel plans would first have to be approved by Rep. Ed Royce (R-California), the chairman of the House committee on Foreign Affairs, who takes a hardline approach against Russia.

Rohrabacher, a former speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan before being elected to Congress in 1988, is referred to as “a longtime enthusiast” of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Post article. The 69-year-old Orange County, California native has recently written op-eds and appeared on television making the case that US and Russia ought to work together to “eradicate the Islamic State.”

When asked if Putin would meet with his delegation, Rohrabacher reportedly paused before answering with a half-smile, “I really can’t say that” and “It’s possible.”

“We’ll see who can come,” Rohrabacher said. “I’ll bring some people with me who seem antagonistic toward having better relations. We’ll put them together, sit down with some people in Russia who can talk to them, person to person, and start to have a real dialogue instead of screaming epithets at each other.”

That could prove to be an uphill battle for the subcommittee chairman.

While Congressman Royce and other Republicans do not share Rohrabacher’s approach for dialogue with Russia, some Democrats on the subcommittee may offer support. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s policies in Syria against Russia. A list is yet to be confirmed for the proposed trip.

READ MORE: ‘Putin’s watching out for Russia, we should do the same’: US congressman on US-Russia relations

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) called Rohrabacher part of the GOP’s “lunatic fringe” upon hearing the news of the planned trip, according to Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa.

However, Rohrabacher, who has said he turned down an offer to serve as deputy secretary of state under a President Donald Trump, is confident that Trump will not oppose this first congressional delegation visit to Russia, the Post reported.

Rohrabacher added that Russian leaders are keen to talk directly with U.S. lawmakers about the sanctions and other political tensions.