WASHINGTON — The Kremlin has not yet accepted the White House’s invitation for Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit D.C. in the fall, suggesting that he and President Trump could meet at other international events.
Just a few days after last week’s Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “In Helsinki, @POTUS agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs. President Trump asked @Ambjohnbolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway.”
That surprised Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who was told about the tweet onstage at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday. “That’s gonna be special,” the intelligence chief quipped.
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said Tuesday that no preparations for such a visit were underway on the Russian end.
“There are other options which our leaders can look at,” Ushakov told reporters about the possibility of a meeting, citing a G20 summit in Argentina at the end of November.
“Maybe there will be other international events which Trump and Putin will take part in,” he said.
Ushakov added that “it would be wise to let the dust settle” after Helsinki “and then we can discuss all these questions in a business-like way. But not now.”
On Capitol Hill today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was asked about his opinion the invitation extended to Putin. “Well, I can only speak for the Congress. The Speaker and I have made it clear that Putin will not be welcome up here at the Capitol,” McConnell said.
In response to a later question, McConnell said, “The Russians better quit messing around in our elections, I want to make that perfectly clear, that Russians better quit messing around in our elections. They did it the last time. They better not do it again.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said of Putin at his own press conference today, “We will certainly not be giving him an invitation to do a joint session. That’s something we reserve for allies.”
“Look, I’m comfortable having presidents sit down and have one-on-ones with foreign leaders, but what I think matters is the message. And if the message is, ‘Stop meddling in our country, stop violating our sovereignty,’ then I support that. But it’s the message that counts,” he said, adding, “I think we can always be firmer on that message.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Fox that he doesn’t “worry a lot about whether there’s a meeting or not having a meeting.”
“What I worry more about is the substance. We need to be standing up against Russian aggression. We need to be standing up against Russian hostility,” Cruz said. “And when it comes to election interference, yes, they interfered in 2016, as they did in 2012, as they did in 2008. Russia is not our friend. And I do think the administration should be unequivocal.”
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said as much in a new interview with CBN.
“We don’t trust Russia; we don’t trust Putin; we never will,” Haley told the network. “They’re never going to be our friend. That’s just a fact.”