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With Snowden Loose, Lawmakers Urge Obama to Nix Russia Trip

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After Russia granted NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum for one year Thursday, top lawmakers in the U.S. Congress suggested President Obama reconsider an upcoming trip to meet with the Russian president, and warned that the diplomatic move jeopardizes the bilateral relationship between the former Cold War adversaries.

Sen. Charles Schumer, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat, called Snowden, who was stuck in a Moscow airport for 39 days, a "coward who has chosen to run," and suggested the president reconsider an upcoming trip to St. Petersburg, Russia for the G-20 summit early next month.

"Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife," Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote in a statement. "Given Russia's decision today, the President should recommend moving the G-20 summit."

The White House had announced in June that President Obama also intended to stop in Moscow to attend a bilateral summit with Putin.

Sen. John McCain, a senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, called Russia's decision a "disgrace" and a pointed move to "embarrass" the U.S.

"It is a slap in the face of all Americans," McCain, R-Ariz., wrote in a statement. "Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin's Russia."

House Speaker John Boehner said that while Snowden's actions "have hurt the ability of our country to protect our citizens" he is leaving it to Obama to "decide the best way to engage" Putin.

"I would hope that President Obama would engage President Putin on this issue and resolve it in a way that's satisfactory to the American people," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "I'll let him decide."

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, said there's "no doubt that the relations between Russia and the United States have not been on a positive track," but "it doesn't mean that we shouldn't have continuing interface with the Russians because we have a lot of mutual interests that are very important to both countries."

"The administration clearly has been in touch, has been in communication with the Russians, urged them not to give Snowden sanctuary," Hoyer, D-Md., said. Granting Snowden asylum is "not consistent with our request, and that will certainly not help the relations between the two countries."

Asked whether the president should still meet with Putin, Hoyer indicated he did not want to "prejudge the president's view" but he pointed to President Reagan's negotiations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War as a historical example of positive developments that can come from engagement.

"Reagan said trust but verify. He could have said talk but make sure you protect your own interests," Hoyer said. "[Reagan] believed that talk was important and that the objectives were important. We'll see what the president thinks at this juncture."

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