Trump asks aide to invite Putin to Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked national security adviser John Bolton to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington in the fall.

That's the latest update Thursday from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders following Trump's meeting with Putin earlier this week in Finland.

Sanders said "those discussions are already underway" for a fall meeting between the two presidents.

It presumably would take place at the White House, but Sanders did not say where Trump and Putin would meet.

In a tweet about Putin earlier Thursday, Trump said, "I look forward to our second meeting."

Rebuke from Senate

The news of the invitation comes as the Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution against allowing Russia to question former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul or other U.S. officials. It was a formal rebuke to Trump, who touted the offer at the Helsinki summit with Putin.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell hastily arranged the vote on the nonbinding resolution after Democrats proposed the measure in response to what Trump had called Putin's "incredible offer."

Putin offered to allow the U.S. to question 12 Russians accused of interfering in the 2016 election in exchange for permitting Russia to interview Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes.

Facing a backlash of bipartisan criticism, the White House on Thursday said Trump "disagrees" with Putin's offer. That statement came moments before the Senate vote. Senators voted 98-0, with all Democrats and most Republicans supporting the resolution.

Trump and Putin took questions — including some on election meddling — during a press conference after their meeting. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Sanders said the proposal was "made in sincerity" by Putin but Trump "disagrees with it."

The White House had indicated Wednesday that offer was under consideration, even though the State Department called Russia's allegations against the Americans "absurd."

Last week, the Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian military intelligence officers for their role in hacking Democratic groups during the 2016 campaign.

Needed to 'correct the record'

Meanwhile, Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, weighed in on the ongoing Russia controversy.

Coats made news Monday when he issued a statement not longer after Trump's controversial statements in Helsinki saying the DNI stands by the assessment that Moscow meddled in the election.

"I was just doing my job," he said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum when asked of his decision to stand by the work of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Coats said not long after he took the job, he told the president that he would always bring him information that was "to the best extent that we can, unvarnished, non-politicized, the best that our incredible intelligence agency can produce."

When asked about what it felt like watching Trump's statement in Helsinki, he said "I believed I needed to correct the record."

"Obviously, I wished he had made a different statement, but I think that now has been clarified."

Coats said while it's possible other actors could try and interfere in U.S. elections, it's "undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this. Basically, they are the ones that are trying to undermine our basic values, divide us with our allies.

"They are the ones that are trying to wreak havoc over our election process — we need to call them out on that, it's critical that we do so."

He said the U.S. also  needs to take steps to make sure Russia isn't able to meddle in the midterm vote coming up in 2018.

Pushing for details

Earlier in the day, Republicans on the U.S. House intelligence committee blocked a move to subpoena the U.S. translator from the Helsinki summit to testify about the private talks between Trump and Putin. 

The panel's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, said Thursday he wanted the translator, who works for the State Department, to appear in closed session, saying Congress must "find out what was said" during the two-hour meeting.

"It is incumbent on us, given what the president said publicly that was of such great concern to our country, to our NATO allies, that we find out what was said privately," Schiff said.

The California lawmaker said he realizes it's an "extraordinary" step to subpoena the interpreter, but added it's also extraordinary for the president to meet alone with a U.S. adversary. 

Senate Democrats have been pushing for testimony from the interpreter to determine if Trump made any deals with Putin during the session.  

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York questioned Thursday if any top administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or Defence Secretary James Mattis, were given any of the details about the meeting or informed of any military or security agreements that were made between Trump and Putin.  

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said it is 'incumbent on us … that we find out what was said privately.' (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

"It is utterly amazing, utterly amazing, that no one knows what was said," Schumer said. "This is a democracy. If your president makes agreements with one of our leading — if not our leading — adversary, his cabinet has to know about it, and so do the American people." 

Schumer asked Senate Republicans on Thursday to bring the translator and top administration officials, including Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, to appear before the Senate.

Not 'appropriate'

Republicans have set an open hearing next week for Pompeo to testify at the Senate foreign relations committee. 

The chairman of that panel, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, of Tennessee, said he is opposed to pursuing the translator's notes from Trump's meeting with Putin. 

"It just does not seem to be to me the appropriate place for us to go," Corker said.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, a member of the foreign relations committee, first raised the issue of calling the translator to testify earlier this week. 

"Congress must exert its authority to be a check on the presidency," she said. 

Shaheen called on the panel to hold a hearing with to determine "what was specifically discussed and agreed to on the United States' behalf." 

She noted that the president "is an official of the U.S. government."

In the House, committee chairman Devin Nunes of California led Republicans in a party line vote to table the motion. Nunes said a panel hearing on China was not an appropriate venue. The vote was 11-6.

Russian politicians denounced suggestions that the translator be interrogated.

Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, expressed hope Thursday that "the verbal agreements between Putin and Trump will be fulfilled." Russian officials worry that domestic turmoil in the U.S. will hamper potential future co-operation on Syria or arms control discussed at the summit.

Russian officials have shrugged off Trump's wildly contradictory accounts of what he said to Putin at Monday's summit.

They are angry, however, at proposals by U.S. lawmakers to question Trump's translator.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the upper house of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said Thursday the idea sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the "the whole idea of diplomacy," according to Russian news agencies.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News