WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top Senate Republican said on Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin was not welcome at the U.S. Capitol, and he warned Moscow against interfering in future American elections.
“The Russians better quit messing around in our elections,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, adding that he was open to legislation to put pressure on Moscow. “They did it the last time. They better not do it again.”
President Donald Trump last week invited Putin to visit Washington this autumn in the aftermath of their summit in Helsinki.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia used a campaign of propaganda and hacking to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to aid Trump’s candidacy, and that Moscow is working to meddle in the November congressional elections.
Russia has denied election interference. Trump has said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
The issue of election meddling hung over last week’s summit in Helsinki, with Trump during a news conference giving credence to Putin’s denials of Russian interference despite the findings of the U.S. intelligence community.
Many Republicans joined Democrats in criticizing Trump’s summit performance. Trump’s invitation for Putin to visit Washington has also caused unease.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, also a Republican, said on Thursday Putin would not be invited to address a joint session of Congress if he accepts Trump’s invitation to visit, saying that was an honor reserved for allies.
McConnell backed the decision.
“The speaker and I have made it clear that Putin will not be welcome up here at the Capitol,” McConnell said.