Trump invites Putin to United States for second meeting, stunning security boss

Brendan Smialowski  AFP  Getty Images FILE

Donald Trump was informed about Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election two weeks before his inauguration, according to reports.

He laughed and said: "That's going to be special".

Coats explained of his reasoning and his relations with Trump: 'We started a good relationship. "In the United States, in Russian Federation, or anywhere else", he said in a statement.

The cover was in reference to the political attacks launched by the White House on Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.

People close to Trump reportedly speculated whether the president would fire Coats, with one source saying Trump never had a liking for him. Dan Sullivan said "I wouldn't do it, that's for damn sure".

Just a day earlier, the White House had said the offer was under consideration, even though the State Department called Russia's allegations against the Americans, including former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, "absurd".

Trump's Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, was unaware of the president's plans to invite Putin to the White House until he was notified while on stage at the Aspen Security Forum conference. Trump initially had described the idea as an "incredible offer". His name was mentioned by Russian officials in the context of a proposal made by President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit to arrange for mutual questioning of individuals suspected of wrongdoing, under a 1999 treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.

It is this hostility toward Russian Federation that has driven bilateral ties to their worst point since the height of the Cold War, and has them resisting even the hint of detente.

Thursday caps off a week in which Coats, who leads the United States intelligence community, has seemed at odds with Trump.

Michael Dwyer  APSen. Ed Markey speaks during the 2018 Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention
Michael Dwyer APSen. Ed Markey speaks during the 2018 Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention

The scale of the bipartisan outcry at Trump's stance toward Putin has only been rivaled by his 2017 waffling over condemning white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In its cover story, Time writer Brian Bennett said, "A year and a half into his presidency, Trump's puzzling affinity for Putin has yet to be explained".

"We see that there are forces in the U.S. that are easily ready to sacrifice Russian-American relations for their own ambitions", Putin said in a speech to Russian ambassadors gathered in Moscow.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Twitter that Mr Trump had "agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs" during Monday's summit between the two leaders in Helsinki.

The US Intelligence chief had the news repeated to him and he said: "Okay".

Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. president tweeted that he was looking forward to meeting with Putin again, to continue discussing the issues that were raised in the summit.

The development comes on the heels of a furor in Washington over Mr. Trump's failure to confront Mr. Putin publicly in Finland about Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Still, from Putin's perspective, the summit put Moscow and Washington on "the path to positive change".

Coats said he was just doing his job when he quickly issued a statement Monday after the president appeared to give credence to Russia's denial of election interference.

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