President Donald Trump has invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit the US, in a move that drew startled laughter from US intelligence chief Dan Coats.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said when he was told about the invitation during a live interview: “That’s gonna be special!”
President Trump’s presidency has been clouded by allegations that Russian hackers meddled in the 2016 US presidential election in his favor. However, the Kremlin denies the allegations.
At the Helsinki summit, President Putin offered access to 12 Russians indicted in absentia by the US authorities over the alleged interference, on condition the Russian authorities could question 12 Americans over a different case. President Trump first praised the suggestion as “incredible” but later rejected it.
Since his return from Finland, President Trump or the White House have had to correct or clarify other comments regarding Russia, creating confusion and prompting the Democrats to demand details of his private talks with President Putin.
Vladimir Putin, in power in Russia since 2000, last visited the US in 2015, when he met President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
On July 19, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that discussions about a visit by Vladimir Putin to Washington DC this autumn were already under way.
Russian ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said Russia had always been open to the idea of a visit but it was “up to the Kremlin to decide how many summits are needed, and when”.
The announcement appeared to come as a surprise to US intelligence chief Dan Coats, who was told about it during a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum in the state of Colorado.
Dan Coats added that he did not yet know what President Trump and President Putin had discussed during their meeting, at which only the pair and their interpreters were present.
At the post-summit news conference in Helsinki, President Putin was asked whether he would extradite 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted in the US for hacking Democratic Party computers.
No extradition treaty exists between the US and Russia, but Vladimir Putin said he would meet the US government “halfway”.
President Putin said that US investigators could question the 12 suspects inside Russia if, in turn, Russian investigators were allowed to question US citizens with regard to a case against financier Bill Browder.
Bill Browder was instrumental in the US imposing sanctions in 2012 on top Russian officials accused of corruption in the Magnitsky affair.
One of the Americans on Russia’s list is a former US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul.
The idea of allowing Russia to quiz US citizens sparked outrage and the Senate voted 98-0 against it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “not going to happen”.
Michael McFaul tweeted his gratitude to the Senate: “98-0. Bipartisanship is not dead yet in the US Senate. Thank you all for your support.”
At the news conference in Helsinki, President Trump said: “He [Vladimir Putin] offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigations with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.”
Now, however, President Trump says he “disagrees” with President Putin’s proposal.
He has also clarified remarks at the news conference in which he said he saw no reason for Russia to have meddled in the 2016 US election – despite US intelligence concluding just that.
Speaking to CBS News on July 18, President Trump said he held Vladimir Putin personally responsible for interfering in the election, and that he was “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling”.
Vladimir 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”.
President Donald Trump has responded to those criticizing his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Writing on Twitter, President Trump condemned “haters” who did not want him getting along with Vladimir Putin, saying they suffered from “Trump Derangement Syndrome”.
President Trump said he misspoke at the press conference with President Putin.
He had sided with the Russian leader over his own intelligence services on claims of Russian election meddling.
That had sparked outrage from both sides of the political divide.
In a series of tweets, President Trump said: “So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”
Later, he added: “Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”
The tweets came a day after he said he had missed out a word when appearing to support Vladimir Putin’s claim that there was no Russian involvement in the 2016 US presidential election.
President Trump said he accepted his intelligence services’ assessment that Russia had interfered.
The controversy centers on a response he gave to a question at a news conference on July 16 following the summit with President Putin.
The AP reporter asked at the news conference: “President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is, who do you believe?”
President Trump responded: “My people came to me… they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
President Trump said he had reviewed the transcript and realized he needed to clarify.
He said: “In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word <<would>> instead of <<wouldn’t>>.
“The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t’ or ‘why it wouldn’t be Russia’. Sort of a double negative.”
President Trump added: “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”
At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to allegations of meddling in the election.
He replied: “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
President Trump also blamed poor relations with Russia on past US administrations rather than Russian actions.
US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorized campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.
President Trump later backtracked, tweeting that he had “great confidence in my intelligence people”.
He tweeted: “As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018”
US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorized campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.
Some US politicians had called for the Trump-Putin summit to be canceled after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted last week, accused of hacking the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Speaking at the press conference in Helsinki, President Putin offered to allow US investigators to visit Russia to question the officers.
Vladimir Putin made it clear that, in return, Russia would want similar access to people in the US it suspects of criminal activity.