The White House on Monday did not dispute reports from the Kremlin that President Donald Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the United States for talks.
“As the President himself confirmed on March 20, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the ‘not-too-distant future’ at a number of potential venues, including the White House,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
She was responding to reports of a Putin foreign policy adviser telling reporters in Moscow about the invitation. But after recent moves by the Trump administration to punish Russia for a list of aggressive actions, the adviser reportedly said planning was not going smoothly.
In their phone conversation last month, Trump congratulated Putin on his recent election win. Putin won a fourth term in office with 77 percent of the vote. Opposition figures and experts have questioned Trump’s action. Trump also did not bring up Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election or the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom.
White House officials say planning is ongoing. “We have nothing further to add at this time,” Sanders said Monday.
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Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been alarmed by Trump’s continued efforts to warm relations with Putin and his unwillingness to criticize him in public. His administration, however, has taken a tougher line on Moscow with two rounds of recent sanctions, the closure of a major diplomatic facility in Seattle and the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers in reaction to the poisoning, election interference and an attack on the U.S. energy sector.
Shortly after the March 20 call, Trump told reporters he likely would meet Putin soon to talk about a range of issues — but his list of possible discussion topics did not include the Kremlin’s efforts to tinker with U.S. elections and the former spy’s poisoning.
Trump said the summit would likely occur “in the not too distant future.” Among the topics: an arms race the American president said is getting out of control.
“We will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have,” Trump said of the U.S. military. Also on the potential agenda: Ukraine and North Korea.
“So I think we’ll probably be seeing President Putin in the not too distant future,” he added.