WASHINGTON — Plans for a second summit between President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have been put on hold until next year.
Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton in a statement Wednesday said: “The President believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year.”
Bolton’s statement, faulting special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference for the delay, comes a day after Kremlin officials indicated to reporters in Moscow that it was unlikely Putin would accept Trump’s invitation to visit Washington, D.C., in the fall. Officials there cited the uproar among American politicians over the first summit in Helsinki last week.
“I think it would be wise to let the dust settle and then we can discuss all these questions in a businesslike way. But not now,” said Yuri Ushakov, a top Kremlin aide, according to media reports. Ushakov said it was likely the leaders would have time to talk during the G-20 summit of leaders in Argentina in November.
Bolton extended the invitation to Putin last week at Trump’s request. The White House announced it as the president continued to grapple with criticism raised by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle over his embrace of Putin during a joint news conference July 16.
Lawmakers objected to inviting Putin to the nation’s capital, citing in part Russia’s role in interfering in the 2016 election as cited by U.S. intelligence agencies last year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan both said Putin would not be invited to speak before a joint session of Congress as previous heads of state have done.
The delayed meeting was announced moments before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to defend the Trump administration’s handling of the Helsinki summit.
“In Helsinki, we sought to explore whether Russia was interested in improving the relationship, but made clear that the ball is in Russia’s court,” Pompeo said in prepared remarks.