Top Senate Democrats have sent a letter urging President Donald Trump to press Russian President Vladimir Putin about election interference during the leaders' scheduled meeting Friday, according to NBC News.
The meeting, the first between the pair since Trump became president in January, comes as Trump has muddied the waters around top U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election. Trump's top aides have said they do not know what the president's agenda will be when he talks to Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany, according to The New York Times.
"President Putin directed an attack on the most central tenet of our democracy — our election. Not raising this matter with President Putin would be a severe dereliction of the duty of the office to which you were elected," said the letter signed by Democratic Senate leaders and party leaders on key committees: Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Mark Warner of Virginia.
The senators said that, amid the threat of possible attempts to influence future elections, the U.S. government should "use every tool at our disposal to ensure that Putin does not believe he has a freehand to implement his manipulative program of election interference ever again."
It is not just Democrats who have expressed concerns about possible future efforts to influence U.S. elections. Republican senators have, as well, and the chamber voted overwhelmingly to curb Trump's powers to roll back sanctions on Moscow.
In Poland on Thursday, Trump said he thinks Russia interfered in the election, but added "I think it could have been other people and other countries" and "nobody really knows for sure." Later in the day, he rebuked Russia over its actions in Ukraine and support for the Assad regime in Syria.
He has dismissed concerns about Moscow's interference as attempts to delegitimize his win.
After Trump's statement Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Trump brought up "equally the possibility that it could have been other countries," according to Bloomberg.
A special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice is investigating Russian efforts to influence the election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. That probe reportedly extends to whether Trump tried to obstruct the probe.
Trump has gotten himself into hot water before with comments to Russian officials. At an Oval Office meeting in May the day after he abruptly fired former FBI Director James Comey, Trump told Russian diplomats that Comey was a "nut job" and that firing him eased pressure from the Russia probe.