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U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks to reporters at an enrollment ceremony for several House bills on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan

Putin not welcome on Capitol Hill, GOP leaders say

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican leaders in Congress are distancing themselves from President Donald Trump’s invitation for Vladimir Putin to visit Washington in the fall, saying the Russian president is not welcome on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that Putin will not be invited to address Congress because “that is something we reserve for allies.”

Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also have shown no interest in holding meetings with Putin if he accepts Trump’s invitation to the White House to follow up on last week’s summit in Helsinki.

“The speaker and I have made it clear that Putin will not be welcome up here at the Capitol,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

Lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns about Trump’s approach to the Russian leader. They strongly rebuked Trump’s comments during a joint press conference in Helsinki when he stood beside Putin and denied U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump has since clarified his remarks to side with the intelligence community.

READ MORE: The many different ways Trump has described Putin and Russian election interference

McConnell declined to back up a tweet Trump sent Tuesday suggesting any potential Russian interference in the fall midterm elections would be designed to favor Democrats. Instead, the Kentucky Republican issued a direct warning to Russia to back off.

“The Russians better quit messing around in our elections,” McConnell said. “I want to make that perfectly clear: The Russians better quit messing around in our elections.”

Congress has struggled with a response to the Russian interference and is considering new sanctions.

Speaking before Congress is an honor often given to high-profile world leaders who come to Washington. French President Emmanuel Macron addressed Congress this spring.

On Putin, Ryan said: “We certainly will not be giving him an invitation to do a joint session. That is something we reserve for allies.”

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