Paul Ryan: Putin won't be invited to address Congress

WASHINGTON, July 24 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be invited to address the U.S. Congress if he accepts President Donald Trump's invitation to visit Washington, a senior Republican lawmaker said on Tuesday, calling that a privilege reserved for allies.

The comments by House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan reflect the continuing unease among U.S. lawmakers even within Trump's own party about the president's outreach to Putin in the wake of the July 16 summit between the two leaders in Helsinki.

Ryan told a briefing he did not have a problem with Trump sitting down with foreign leaders like Putin, but said the message being conveyed during such talks is what is important.

"If the message is, 'Stop meddling in our country, stop violating our sovereignty,' then I support that. But it's the message that counts," Ryan told reporters, adding "we can always be firmer on that."

SEE ALSO: White House says President Trump's Putin meeting is part of 'proud American tradition' of diplomacy

Trump faced bipartisan criticism over his performance at the summit. At a joint news conference after their meeting, Trump gave credence to Putin's denials of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election despite the findings of the U.S. intelligence community about Moscow's actions.

Trump later said he misspoke in the news conference and that he accepted U.S. intelligence that Russia had interfered. But Trump has called the summit a success and last week invited Putin to visit Washington in the autumn.

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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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Asked about the invitation, Ryan told reporters that even though Trump has invited Putin to Washington, the Russian leader will not be given the chance that some visiting foreign leaders get to address a joint session of the U.S. House and Senate.

"We would certainly not be giving him an invitation to do a joint session," Ryan added. "That's something we reserve for allies."

Some Republicans expressed fresh skepticism about a Putin visit. Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said, "I'm suspicious of everything Putin does."

After a meeting of House Republicans, Thornberry said he had heard no talk of anyone in Congress trying to meet with Putin during the potential visit.

"I don't know how that would be of much benefit," Thornberry said.

Trump faced withering criticism after meeting Putin in Helsinki, including from former CIA Director John Brennan, who described the president's performance as "nothing short of treasonous." The White House said on Monday Trump was looking at revoking the security clearances of Brennan and five other former officials who have been critical of the president.

Ryan downplayed the threat.

"I think he's trolling people, honestly," Ryan said.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker and Susan Cornwell; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Will Dunham)

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