Kentucky Senator Rand Paul reportedly took on courier duties for President Donald Trump, delivering a letter from the commander-in-chief to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his one-man diplomatic mission overseas this week.
The Twitter announcement is only the latest in a string of statements and actions that situate the Bowling Green lawmaker outside the conventional thinking on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. As his fellow senators debate “crushing” new sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for election meddling, Paul exercised his independent streak, traveling to a country U.S. intelligence officials warn is engaging in an active campaign to interfere in U.S. elections this fall.
Speaking to the press in Moscow after meeting with Russia's International Affairs Committee, the senator urged both countries to keep the lines of communication open.
"It does not mean that we have no differences. It does not mean that we will not on occasion have discussions back and forth where we disagree, but discussions are incredibly important. Diplomacy is important," the former Republican presidential candidate advised.
But Paul’s take on Russia, and his invitation to Russian lawmakers to visit Washington, D.C., are raising some eyebrows back home.
Known for breaking with the party line, the senator was among President Trump’s defenders after a widely panned summit with Putin in Helsinki. The lawmaker also voted against new sanctions in 2017. After Paul objected to a resolution allowing Montenegro to join NATO in March, Arizona Senator John McCain went as far as to question his colleague’s loyalties on the chamber floor.
"So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin," McCain said.
Yet Paul maintains more and better dialogue can ease tensions between the two nations.
After meeting with lawmakers in Russia's upper parliament, the senator stopped short of saying Russia could be considered a friend of the U.S., instead pointing to opportunities to address the countries’ “shared interests” on Syria, terrorism, and energy, according to Business Insider.