WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the nation’s capital this fall for a second summit, White House officials announced Thursday as lawmakers and the president’s own advisers continued to press for details about Monday's first meeting.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in an afternoon tweet, said that at the Helsinki summit, Trump “agreed to ongoing working level dialogue” between the national security council staffs of both countries, and had directed National Security Adviser John Bolton “to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway.”
The announcement came hours after Sanders issued a statement indicating the president would no longer consider a proposal raised by Putin that would have allowed Russia to interrogate a group of 11 Americans tied to a longtime Kremlin critic.
Putin, on Monday, said in exchange for access to the Americans, he would offer U.S. investigators access to 12 Russians recently indicted on charges of meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump, appearing side by side with Putin at a joint news conference, called the suggestion “an interesting idea.” Two days later when asked whether the president supported such a swap, Sanders told reporters Trump would “meet with his team” to weigh the possibility.
But the president’s willingness to entertain Putin’s idea was met with bipartisan backlash from lawmakers who fumed at the prospect of turning over American citizens — including former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and businessman Bill Browder, who lobbied for sanctions against Russia — to the Russian government.
On Thursday, as the Senate prepared to take a vote on a resolution calling on Trump to disavow Putin’s request, Sanders issued a statement saying the president disagreed with Putin’s proposal.
“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Sanders said. “Hopefully, President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”
Senators proceeded with their vote, approving the resolution sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), 98-0.
McFaul, speaking on MSNBC on Thursday morning, said he was stunned that the Trump administration did not immediately reject Putin’s proposal.
“Most shocking, and just lamentable, I think is my real reaction,” McFaul said before drawing a contrast between Putin and special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into election interference. “When the White House was given the opportunity to categorically reject this moral equivalency between a legitimate indictment with lots of data and evidence to support it from Mr. Mueller with a crazy, cockamamie scheme with no relationship to facts and reality whatsoever, the White House refused to do that.”
Three days after Trump’s meeting, administration officials continued to grapple with providing details of the president’s closed-door, two-hour session with Putin. Meanwhile, Russian officials offered up their own account of “important verbal agreements” reached between the two leaders on Syria and a pair of arms control treaties.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, speaking at a national security conference in Denver, said he hoped to learn more about what was said by Trump and Putin in a meeting where only their interpreters were in tow and no notes or recordings were taken.
"That is the president's prerogative. If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted I would have suggested a different way," Coats said, adding that he was unaware the president had invited Putin to Washington until told onstage by the forum's moderator.
In a series of Thursday morning tweets, Trump outlined broad topics that he and Putin discussed in Helsinki, but stopped short of noting any specific deals made between the two as is customarily done following such one-on-one summits.
“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” Trump tweeted Thursday, blaming the media for the onslaught of criticism he received immediately after his joint appearance with Putin, including from leaders and allies within his own party.
Trump added: “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. There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems ... but they can ALL be solved!”
Putin, in a speech to Russian diplomats on Thursday, addressed some of the uproar Trump has faced since the meeting where he accepted Putin’s denial of Russian election interference over the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies. Putin said: “We see that in the United States there are forces that are ready to easily sacrifice Russian-American relations to their ambitions.”
Putin’s speech, in which he said “positive agreements” were reached by both leaders, came as Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee pushed unsuccessfully for a measure that would have forced the president’s translator in Helsinki to testify before the panel.