US President Donald Trump has announced that he will invite his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to a meeting in Washington, DC, drawing protest from the top Senate Democrat, who had earlier questioned the two leaders’ summit in Helsinki.
In an interview with CNBC television on Thursday, Trump said that “getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia’s a positive, not a negative”.
“I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed,” Trump said.
“Now with that being said if it doesn’t work out I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that meeting may come this fall.
“President Trump asked [National Security Advisor John Bolton] to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway,” Sanders tweeted on Thursday.
No Russian leader has visited the White House in nearly a decade.
The invitation seemed to surprise Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who was told about it during a live interview at an event in the US state of Colorado.
“Say that again?” Coats asked the interviewer.
“OK. That’s going to be special,” he said, laughing.
Cleanup of Helsinki aftermath
Thursday’s announcement came as the White House sought to clean up days of confounding Trump statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump’s public doubting of Russia’s responsibility in a joint news conference with Putin on Monday provoked withering criticism from Republicans, as well as Democrats and forced the president to make a rare public admission of error.
The White House said Trump “disagrees” with Putin’s offer to allow US questioning of 12 Russians who have been indicted for election interference in exchange for Russian interviews with the former US ambassador to Russia and other Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes.
Trump initially had described the idea as an “incredible offer”.
The White House backtrack came just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the proposal. It was Congress’ first formal rebuke of Trump’s actions at the summit and in its aftermath.
The idea for another summit with Putin comes as Congress struggles with a response to the first, and Thursday brought a flurry of actions as politicians tried to uncover details of what happened in Helsinki.
Trump and Putin held two hours of closed-door talks with no one else present but the interpreters.
Democratic Senate leader Charles Schumer said that unless details of the Helsinki summit are known, the US president should refrain from more one-on-one interactions Putin “in the United States, in Russia, or anywhere else”.
Trump’s fellow Republican, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan said “I wouldn’t do it, that’s for damn sure”, when asked about the invitation.
“If the Russians want a better relationship, trips to the White House aren’t going to help,” he added. “They should stop invading their neighbors. They should stop meddling in our elections.”
Putin told Russian diplomats on Thursday that US-Russian relations are “in some ways worse than during the Cold War,” but that the meeting with Trump allowed a start on “the path to positive change”.
He has yet to comment on the most recent announcement of a possible meeting in Washington, DC.
The Russian envoy to the US said on Friday that Moscow was “open” to the possible visit.
Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said Russia “was always open to such proposals” and that Moscow is “ready for discussions on this subject”. He added, however, that it was up to the Kremlin to formally respond.
He also said that it is important to “deal with the results” of the two men’s summit in Helsinki this week before moving ahead too fast with another meeting.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump’s goal was to “redirect” two countries “that’d been on a bad path.”
“There’s been a lot of heat and very little light following that press conference,” he told Catholic television network EWTN in an interview broadcast on Thursday.
“I watched the president’s interaction with President Putin after their one-on-one meeting … The president was aiming towards creating a channel for communication and dialogue, and he achieved that,” he said, adding he would be “very surprised” if a transcript of the meeting was released.