Senate Republicans

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

McConnell: 'Putin Will Not Be Welcome Up Here At The Capitol'

July 24, 2018 - 5:10 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday distanced Republicans from President Donald Trump's invitation for Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington.

McConnell said he and House Speaker Paul Ryan have made it clear that "Putin will not be welcome up here at the Capitol."

Politico Congressional Reporter Elana Schor said despite their statements, Republicans in Congress are in a tough position.

“Because behind closed doors, in a vacuum without President Trump in office, they hate Vladimir Putin and don’t want him anywhere near them. But of course, they can’t be that vocal in those terms because the president has invited him here, and the last thing the Republican Party needs right now is to pick a real fight – trolling tweets aside – with the president over this visit,” she said.

Thus, Schor told WCBS 880’s Mack Rosenberg and Michael Wallace, congressional Republican leaders are only saying Putin will not be welcome at the Capitol, not that Trump should not welcome him either.

“And again, the reason for that is simple. It risks aggravating their base, and just making their party look somewhat disorganized, if you have them at odds,” she said.

Trump said in a tweet he's "very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election," but says: "they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump!"

He did not explain his reasoning.

McConnell leader also backed away from Trump's suggestion Tuesday that any potential Russian interference in the upcoming midterm elections would be to favor Democrats.

But McConnell issued a warning, saying: "The Russians better quit messing around in our elections. I want to make that perfectly clear, the Russians better quit messing around in our elections."

He said he is considering legislation that would hit Russia with stiff sanctions if they try to influence the elections.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election to try to help Trump win, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week at his joint press conference with Trump that he was rooting for the Republican.

The tweet is the latest example of Trump sowing doubts about the integrity of the U.S. electoral system. In 2016, he repeatedly claimed the election was "rigged."

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)