Evangelical leader Franklin Graham recently made a trip to Moscow to meet with various government and religious officials, including those under U.S. sanctions, and Graham said he had the express blessing of Vice President Mike Pence.
According to ThinkProgress, one of the Russian government’s official social media accounts described the meeting as a means to “[intensify] contacts between the State Duma and the U.S. Congress.”
Graham said he called Pence to inform him of the trip, adding that the vice president was “very happy to hear the news” and “admitted that he fully supported” Graham’s decision.
The chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association met with a number of prominent Russians earlier this month during his visit to Moscow, which included “a sit-down meeting with Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who is close to President Vladimir Putin and who has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2014 for his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” ThinkProgress reported.
Social media postings by both the Duma’s official account and Graham’s indicate that the evangelical leader had nothing but praise for Volodin, saying it was an “honor” to meet with him and calling the official “a very gracious man.”
The focus of their meeting, according to an Instagram post shared from the Duma account to Graham’s personal page, was “on the current state of U.S.-Russia relations,” including “the possibility of intensifying contacts between the State Duma and the U.S. Congress.”
Graham has a history of praising the Kremlin, ThinkProgress noted, “such as when he lauded [President Vladimir] Putin for ‘protecting Russian young people’ via Moscow’s virulently anti-LGBTQ policies. He has previously called for the U.S. to ‘ally’ with Russia in the “fight against Islamic terrorism,” and, in 2015, traveled to Russia to complain about former President Barack Obama ‘promot[ing] atheism.’”
He also met with Putin personally in 2015, which Graham boasted of on Twitter in 2017.
Upon arriving in Moscow this month, Graham — who is a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump — poked fun at the investigation into possible collusion the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, writing, “#Collusion? I’m in Russia right now—Moscow to be exact—and I’m meeting with the Russian churches on how we can share with more young people about faith in Jesus Christ! That’s not “collusion,” but it is collaboration for the sake of souls. #GoodNews.”