Why are Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum hanging out in Russia?

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At a time when U.S.-Russian relations are at a post-Cold War nadir, former GOP stalwarts Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum decided to visit St. Petersburg. According to Huckabee’s Twitter feed, the two have spent the past few days in Russia, touring the city and visiting seaside restaurants.

The two are helping lead a for-profit cruise through the Baltic Sea — one that costs guests anywhere between $5,000 and $12,000 to attend.

On Facebook, Huckabee pitched the cruise as an “unforgettable trip to the Baltics,” noting that it would also be stopping in Estonia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.

It’s unclear how many participants are joining Huckabee and Santorum on the cruise, as cruise organizers did not respond to ThinkProgress’ questions.

On Twitter, Huckabee pitched the cruise as an opportunity to “actually collude [with] Russia in a GOOD way[.]” Huckabee’s wife, Janet Huckabee, also joined in, saying of her time in St. Petersburg, “We were colluding!” But it’s unclear whether Huckabee and Santorum have sought meetings with any Russian officials while in St. Petersburg — much as leading evangelical Franklin Graham did a few months ago, when he had a sit-down meeting with sanctioned Russian politician Vyacheslav Volodin. Graham later claimed that Vice President Mike Pence signed off on his trip.

Instead, it appears that Huckabee is using the trip to simply make money, as well as push “jokes” about the Trump campaign’s 2016 attempts at collusion with Russia.

Huckabee had plenty more jokes for Twitter, pointing out that he would have arrived “shirtless,” à la Russian President Vladimir Putin, but “didn’t want to over excite [sic] the Russian women.” In another tweet, Huckabee also pointed to a restaurant called The Idiot, named for Fyodor Dostoevsky’s eponymous novel. (Huckabee instead claimed the restaurant was named after him.)

The timing of Santorum’s and Huckabee’s visit is, to say the least, odd. Special counsel Robert Mueller recently laid out for Congress the myriad ways Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and plans to interfere in the next election, as well. U.S.-Russian relations continue to deteriorate across other fronts, from arms control to security concerns.

Santorum hasn’t yet publicly commented on the trip, but it also comes amid questions about his relationship with convicted Russian agent Maria Butina: Santorum was one of the few high-profile GOP figures Butina met during her time in the United States. A photo of the two of them captured both smiling for the camera.






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