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Trump plans to invite Putin to Washington

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US President Donald Trump plans to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this autumn, the White House has said.

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The news of the invitation comes days after a summit that led to an uproar in the US over Trump’s failure to publicly confront Putin for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 US election.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a Twitter post that Trump had directed national security adviser John Bolton to issue the invitation, even though US lawmakers and top officials in Trump’s administration have not been briefed on what Trump and Putin discussed in Monday’s summit.

Even Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said he did not know what happened in Helsinki.

“Well, you’re right, I don’t know what happened at that meeting,” Coats said in response to a question at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

The coveted invitation to Washington was sure to be seen as a victory by Putin, whose last official visit to the US was in July 2007, when he spent two days at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Both Trump and Putin earlier praised their first meeting as a success and blamed forces in the US for trying to belittle its achievements. Despite the week’s furore, Trump also said he was looking forward to his second meeting with the Russian leader.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer immediately criticised the planned invitation.

“Until we know what happened at that two-hour meeting in Helsinki, the president should have no more one-on-one interactions with Putin. In the United States, in Russia, or anywhere else,” he said.

The White House, with Trump under fierce criticism in the US, on Thursday rejected Putin’s proposal that Russian authorities be present for the questioning of Americans it accuses of “illegal activities,”.

It was the latest about-face from the White House as it struggled to quiet the post-Helsinki summit uproar.

Critics complained that Trump was given ample opportunity at a joint news conference on Monday to scold Putin over Russian interference in the US election but instead accepted Putin’s denials over the word of American intelligence agencies.

Trump on Tuesday said he misspoke during the news conference. A day later, Trump answered “no” to a reporter’s question on whether Russia was still targeting the US, only to have Sanders say later he was saying “no” to answering any questions – not to the question itself.

Republican and Democratic US lawmakers have grappled with Trump’s conflicting statements about the summit and what they did not know: exactly what the two leaders discussed and what agreements, if any, were reached.

In a rebuke to the president, the Senate – controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans – unanimously approved a resolution expressing congressional opposition to any US officials being questioned with Russian officials.

On Wednesday, the Russian Prosecutor General’s office listed Americans it wanted to question for “illegal activities,” including Michael McFaul, who was US ambassador to Russia under Democratic former President Barack Obama.

“That’s not going to happen,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CBN News.

– Reuters

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