US President Donald Trump has asked a senior aide to invite Vladimir Putin to Washington in the autumn, the White House has said.
Trump had rejected the Russian President’s proposal that Russian authorities be allowed to question American citizens, the White House said on Thursday, after the offer drew fierce criticism in the United States.
The Republican president then directed his national security adviser, John Bolton, to invite Putin to DC - four days after Trump held a summit with the Russian leader in Helsinki.
“President Trump asked @Ambjohnbolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a tweet.
Following their summit on Monday, Putin described the proposal when he was asked about the possible extradition of 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted in the United States on charges of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Putin indicated he would permit American law enforcement officials to observe questioning by Russian officials of the indicted Russians in exchange for letting Russian investigators question Americans on other matters, mentioning London-based financier Bill Browder, a onetime investor in Russia.
Trump on Monday called Putin’s idea “an incredible offer”.
“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Sanders said in a statement on earlier Thursday.
“Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”
The White House issued that statement as the US Senate prepared to vote on a resolution expressing congressional opposition to allowing any U.S. officials to be questioned by Russia.
In a rebuke, the Senate - controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans - went on to unanimously approve the resolution.
It was the latest U-turn from the White House as it struggled to quiet an uproar over Trump’s failure to confront Putin over Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The White House had said on Wednesday that Trump was considering the proposal, drawing a barrage of criticism from Republicans and Democrats.
Trump on Tuesday said he mis-spoke during a joint news conference in Helsinki when he said he did not see why Russia would meddle in the election.
On Wednesday, Trump answered “no” to a reporter’s question on whether Russia was still targeting the United States, only to have Sanders say hours later he was saying “no” to answering any questions - not to the question itself.