Trump orders invitation for Putin to visit Washington

Discussions ‘already under way’ about next meeting of US and Russian leaders

US president Donald Trump says he holds Russian president Vladimir Putin personally responsible for election meddling in 2016. Video: CBS News

 

A defiant Donald Trump has instructed his national security adviser to invite Russian president Vladimir Putin to Washington in the autumn, the White House has announced.

As the political fallout from Monday’s US-Russia summit in Helsinki showed no sign of abating, Mr Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Thursday “discussions are already under way” about the next meeting between the two.

The development came hours after the White House was forced to clarify that Mr Trump opposed a request from Mr Putin to send former US officials and diplomats to Russia for questioning.

Mr Putin raised the possibility in exchange for granting permission to US investigators to interview the 12 Russian individuals who were indicted last week in relation to alleged interference with US elections.  

The White House had suggested Mr Trump was discussing the idea with advisers, with the president branding the proposal as an “interesting idea”.

However, the suggestion elicited outrage from politicians, prompting the US Senate to vote on an emergency resolution on Thursday calling on Mr Trump not to allow diplomats, officials and military members to be made available to Russia for questioning. The resolution was carried by 98 votes to zero.

Specifically, Moscow requested that 11 former US diplomats and officials – including former US ambassador Michael McFaul – be questioned by Russian officials.

Faced with a growing outcry, the White House was forced to issue a clarification on Thursday.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Ms Sanders said in a statement. “Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”

Mr McFaul had earlier called on the White House to correct the record and denounce “in categorical terms this ridiculous request from Putin”.

“Not doing so creates moral equivalency between a legitimacy US indictment of Russian intelligence officers and a crazy, completely fabricated story invented by Putin,” he said.

The clarification marked the third row-back by the White House this week as it struggles to contain the political damage from Monday’s summit.

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump reiterated his criticism of the media as “the enemy of the people,” insisting that the meeting with Mr Putin had been a “great success” and stating that he looked forward to a second meeting.

In another break from protocol, Mr Trump criticised the US Federal Reserve for raising interest rates and complained about the strength of the dollar in an interview with CNBC, comments that drove the dollar lower.

“I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best,” he said.

Presidents traditionally do not comment on monetary policy, which is the discretion of the Federal Reserve.