WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump wants to meet at the White House with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2019 -- sometime after the Justice Department’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is over, his national security adviser says.
"The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year," John Bolton said in a statement on July 25.
Trump drew harsh criticism for his July 16 performance in Helsinki during his first summit with Putin, with critics saying he sided with Russia over his own intelligence agencies in their conclusions that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential campaign.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing Moscow’s actions and investigating whether members of the Trump team colluded with Russian officials.There is no indication when Mueller's probe will be completed.
Trump has often called the investigation a “witch hunt” and has denied any collusion with Russia.
Despite the criticism over his Helsinki summit, Trump later invited Putin to visit the White House, initially saying it would happen in the fall.
However, a top Kremlin aide on July 24 said Putin is waiting for the "dust to settle" over his controversial meeting with Trump in Helsinki before deciding whether to take up Trump's offer for a second summit.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the U.S. Congress, citing Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. elections, said they would not invite Putin to address Congress or visit the Capitol if he accepted Trump's invitation to a second summit this fall.