- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2018

Sen. John Kennedy described the Russian foreign minister as a bully and “smart a—” Monday, after Republican lawmakers met with Russians before the Fourth of July.

“We didn’t hit it off very well at all, the foreign minister and I,” Mr. Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said during an interview on CNN’s “This Hour.”

Mr. Kennedy met with Russian officials Tuesday along with a delegation of other Republicans. The American lawmakers went to discuss Russian interference in Ukraine, Syria and the U.S. presidential election.

Mr. Kennedy said they explicitly told the Russians to “stop screwing with our elections” and threatened to double down on sanctions if the midterms were interfered with.

While he was confident their message was received, the congressman acknowledged that the relationship between the Russians and lawmakers was “testy.” He described the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as particularly difficult.

“We exchanged words. He’s a bully,” Mr. Kennedy said, “He impressed me as the sort of guy who started out in the world as a smart a— and worked his way up.”

Mr. Kennedy said Russia needs to be contained. While he emphasized that approach did not need to be “ugly,” a firm hand was needed.

“Dealing with Putin is like hand-feeding a shark,” he said, “You can do it, but you have to do it very, very carefully.”

Despite Mr. Kennedy’s tough words, fellow Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana said the meeting was “productive” and stressed ongoing communication with Russia. 

President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16. 

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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