President Donald Trump has invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to the U.S. for talks later this year, the White House has announced, days after he faced a bipartisan backlash for his comments after his first summit with the Russian leader in Helsinki.
President Trump came under widespread criticism on Monday for not backing the American intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election won by him.
President Trump has invited President Putin to visit the U.S. in the autumn, his press secretary Sarah Sanders said as she tweeted that discussions for the visit were already under way.
“In Helsinki, President of the United States agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs. President Trump asked [National Security Adviser] John Bolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway,” Ms. Sanders said in a tweet on Thursday.
The tweet came hours after Mr. Trump tweeted that he was “looking forward” to meeting again with Mr. Putin to “start implementing” some issues they discussed during their summit earlier this week.
The announcement seems to come as a surprise to US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who was told about it during a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum in the state of Colorado.
He laughed and said: “That’s going to be special.”
Mr. Coats also told the conference that he did not know what was discussed during the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki, at which only their interpreters were also present.
“I don’t know what happened in that meeting. ..I think that as time goes by — the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting — I think we will learn more, but that is the president’s prerogative,” Mr. Coats said in response to a question.
The announcement that Mr. Putin was in talks to visit Washington again comes amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. President Putin has rejected the charge.
U.S. lawmakers, both from Democrats to Republicans, have blasted Mr. Trump for not backing the American intelligence community’s claim that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election during his press conference with Mr. Putin in Helsinki.
Following the controversy, Mr. Trump had to correct his own words from the press conference which followed the summit.
Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican and a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, had labelled his performance at the Helsinki press conference as “shameful”.
It was one of the “most disgraceful performances” by an American president in memory, Republican Senator John McCain had said.
Mr. Trump, however, termed the summit a “great success” and rejected the political outrage as “fuss” created by the “fake news media”.
“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media. I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more,” he said in a tweet.
“There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems… but they can ALL be solved!” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Putin has also signalled in the wake of his summit with Mr. Trump that he and the U.S. President reached several agreements, but neither Mr. Trump nor the White House have confirmed any substantive agreements between the two countries.
Mr. Putin has also described the summit as “successful” but warned “there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-US relations”.