Trump Putin: Incredulity as Russian leader is invited to visit US
[July 20 2018]
President Donald Trump has invited Russian leader
Vladimir Putin to visit America, in a move that drew startled laughter
from a US intelligence chief.
"That's gonna be special!" said Director of National
Intelligence Dan Coats, when he was told about the invitation during a
A row is continuing over Mr Trump's first summit with
Mr Putin, in Helsinki, where they talked privately.
Opposition Democrats say there should be no more
"Until we know what happened at that two-hour meeting
in Helsinki, the president should have no more one-on-one interactions
with Putin," said the top Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer, in a
statement. "In the United States, in Russia, or anywhere else."
Mr Trump's presidency has been clouded by allegations
that Russian hackers meddled in the 2016 US presidential election in his
favour. The Kremlin denies the allegations.
In Helsinki, Mr Putin offered access to 12 Russians
indicted in absentia by the US authorities over the alleged
interference, on condition the Russian authorities could question 12
Americans over a different case. Mr Trump first praised the suggestion
as "incredible" but later rejected it.
Since his return from Finland, he or the White House
have had to correct or clarify other comments regarding Russia, creating
confusion and prompting the Democrats to demand details of his private
talks with Mr Putin.
Trump prepares a sequel
By Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington
Donald Trump has tweeted that the summit with Mr Putin
was a "great success" and people at "higher ends of intelligence" loved
his Helsinki news conference. As if to underline that point, plans are
already under way for a sequel - this time in Washington DC.
Never mind that the White House has spent three days
trying to clean up the political fallout from the summit amid bipartisan
criticism, or that the special counsel investigation into Russian
meddling in 2016 continues apace.
Mr Trump may have been encouraged by recent opinion
polling showing that while the public at large is uneasy with Mr Trump's
Russia policies, his Republican base - by a sizeable majority - is fine
with his performance.
The president campaigned on closer ties with Russia, a
goal that had been thwarted during his first year in office. With his
base still behind him, Mr Trump appears ready to press on with his
What do we know about Putin's potential visit?
Mr Putin, in power in Russia since 2000, last visited
the US in 2015, when he met President Barack Obama, Mr Trump's
predecessor, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to
discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
Mr Putin said he would meet the US "halfway" over
access to indictees
On Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders
tweeted that discussions about a visit by Mr Putin to Washington DC this
autumn were already under way.
Russia's ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov,
said his country had always been open to the idea of a visit but it was
"up to the Kremlin to decide how many summits are needed, and when".
The announcement appeared to come as a surprise to US
intelligence chief Mr Coats, who was told about it during a live
interview at the Aspen Security Forum in the state of Colorado.
He added that he did not yet know what Mr Trump and Mr
Putin had discussed during their meeting, at which only the pair and
their interpreters were present.
What was Putin's 'incredible offer'?
At the post-summit news conference in Helsinki, Mr
Putin was asked whether he would extradite 12 Russian intelligence
agents indicted in the US for hacking Democratic Party computers.
No extradition treaty exists between the two countries
but Mr Putin said he would meet the US government "halfway".
He said that US investigators could question the 12
suspects inside Russia if, in turn, Russian investigators were allowed
to question US citizens with regard to a case against financier Bill
Mr Browder was instrumental in the US imposing
sanctions in 2012 on top Russian officials accused of corruption in the Magnitsky affair.
One of the Americans on Russia's list is a former US
ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul.
The idea of allowing Russia to quiz US citizens
sparked outrage and the US Senate voted 98-0 against it. Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo said it was "not going to happen".
Mr McFaul tweeted his gratitude to the Senate.
At the news conference in Helsinki, Mr Trump said: "He
[Mr Putin] offered to have the people working on the case come and work
with their investigations with respect to the 12 people. I think that's
an incredible offer."
Now, however, he says he "disagrees" with Mr Putin's
"I'm thankful that Donald Trump has no intention of
handing me over to Vladimir Putin to have me killed in a Russian
prison," Mr Browder told the BBC.
President Trump has also clarified remarks at the news
conference in which he said he saw no reason for Russia to have meddled
in the 2016 US election - despite US intelligence concluding just that.
Speaking to CBS News on Wednesday, Mr Trump said he
held Mr Putin personally responsible for interfering in the election,
and that he was "very strong on the fact that we can't have meddling".
Mr Putin has also described the summit as "successful"
but warned "there are forces in the United States that are prepared to
casually sacrifice Russian-US relations".
Courtesy : BBC News
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