Trump invites Putin to Washington after interview furor

WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin'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 Washington in the fall, the White House said, 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 Twitter post.

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.

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Twelve Russian intelligence officers indicted in Mueller probe
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pauses while announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A copy of the grand jury indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers is seen after the indictments were filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors working as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation�n Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein departs a news conference after announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
The U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building is seen after Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pauses while announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A copy of the grand jury indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers is seen after being filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors working as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation�in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as he appears with Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O?Callaghan during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein takes questions after announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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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 one-time 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 U.S. 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 about-face 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 misspoke 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.

On Wednesday, the Russian Prosecutor General's office listed Americans it wanted to question for "illegal activities," including Michael McFaul, who was U.S. ambassador to Russia under Democratic former President Barack Obama.

"That's not going to happen," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CBN News on Thursday.

"No president should have the power to gift-wrap American citizens, let alone former ambassadors, to our known adversaries," top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said before introducing the resolution.

"I don't think there is one member of Congress, on either side of the aisle, that believes it is remotely smart to require our former ambassador, Mr. Browder or any other person to submit to interviews by Putin's government," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters Thursday morning.

 

'GREAT SUCCESS'

Earlier on Thursday, both Trump and Putin blamed forces within the United States for marring what they called the success of their first summit, with Trump saying he looked forward to their second meeting.

Trump accused the news media of distorting comments in which he gave credence to Putin's denials of election interference despite the conclusions of the American intelligence community about Moscow's conduct.

"The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed," Trump said, citing terrorism, Israel's security, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace and North Korea.

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President Donald Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in Finland
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President Donald Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in Finland
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HELSINKI, FINLAND - JULY 16, 2018: The national flags of Russia and the United States seen ahead of a meeting of Russia's President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R), U.S. President Donald Trump (C) and First lady Melania Trump attend a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HELSINKI, FINLAND - JULY 16: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'KREMLIN PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) (L-R) US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and his wife Jenni Haukio pose for a photo during their meeting in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R), U.S. President Donald Trump (C) and First lady Melania Trump attend a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they meet in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HELSINKI, FINLAND JULY 16, 2018: US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin give a joint news conference following their meeting at the Presidential Palace. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin react at the end of the joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
U.S. President Donald Trump receives a football from Russia's President Vladimir Putin during their joint news conference after a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C), U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and First lady Melania Trump pose for a picture with a football during a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HELSINKI, FINLAND JULY 16, 2018: US First Lady Melania Trump, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and US President Donald Trump (L-R) after a news conference at the Presidential Palace. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump holds a football thrown to her by U.S. President Donald Trump during his joint news conference with Russia's President Vladimir Putin after a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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In Moscow, Putin said "powerful" U.S. forces were trying to sabotage the summit's achievements, but said he and Trump had begun to improve U.S.-Russia ties anyway.

"It was successful overall and led to some useful agreements," Putin said, without elaborating on the agreements.

"We see that there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-U.S. relations, to sacrifice them for their ambitions in an internal political battle in the United States," Putin said.

Without naming names, Putin spoke of U.S. politicians who put their "narrow party interests" above the best interests of the United States and were powerful enough to be able to foist their questionable "stories" on millions of Americans.

Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers grappled with Trump's conflicting statements about the summit as well as what they did not know: exactly what the two leaders discussed in their private meeting and what agreements, if any, were reached.

Republicans voted down a motion offered by Democrats in the House of Representatives intelligence committee to subpoena the American interpreter who witnessed Trump's meeting with Putin.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he asked two Senate panels to recommend additional action aimed at preventing future Russian election meddling and hold hearings on an existing Russia sanctions law.

American intelligence agencies last year announced their conclusion that Russia carried out a campaign of hacking and propaganda targeting the 2016 U.S. election in an attempt to sow discord, disparage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and aid Trump's candidacy. Putin has denied any such meddling.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu, Richard Cowan, Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey in Washington and Andrew Osborn and Olesya Astakhova in Moscow; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)

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