Russian delegates at a bilateral meeting in Berlin denied that their country meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and gave no opinion on President Donald Trump, the lawmaker who led the 13-member U.S. delegation said Saturday.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he brought up the meddling issue during the meeting, but the members of Russia's Duma who attended dismissed the claims as the work of “just a few Russian hackers” that wasn’t sanctioned by Moscow.
Smith said that when he maintained that U.S. intelligence agencies implied otherwise, one Russian delegate told him the number of hackers involved in the election meddling could be counted “on both hands and one foot.”
Nevertheless, Smith said, the remainder of the two-hour meeting was “transparent” and “candid.”
The gathering between members of Congress and their counterparts in Russia's Duma occurred on the sidelines of a four-day meeting of lawmakers from 57 countries regarding “highly contested human rights issues.”
The two sides discussed human trafficking in Russia and the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, but “not one word” about Trump, who is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Helsinki, the Asbury Park Press reported.
Smith said the Russian delegates would “try to help” him obtain a visa so he can visit Russia to investigate human trafficking and push for international adoption.
According to a statement from Smith’s office, the congressman has authored initiatives to combat human trafficking in both Russia and the U.S.
In a telephone interview with the Press, Smith cautioned that expectations ahead of the Helsinki summit must be managed “big-time because Putin is very aggressive.”