Trump rejects Putin offer on interviewing suspects

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Donald Trump has rejected Vladimir Putin’s offer to allow the US to question 12 Russians accused of interfering in the 2016 election.

In return, Mr Putin wanted permission for Russia to interview Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the proposal was “made in sincerity” by the Russian president but Mr Trump “disagrees with it”.

She said the US hopes Mr Putin will have the Russians indicted on charges brought by the US Department of Justice “come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt”.

The White House rejected Mr Putin’s offer as the Republican-controlled Senate prepared to issue a rebuke to Mr Trump by going on record against the offer. After Mr Trump backed down, the Senate cancelled the vote.

Russia Putin
Vladimir Putin made an offer to Donald Trump about interviewing suspects (Sergei Karpukhin/AP)

The White House had said on Wednesday it was under consideration, even though the State Department called Russia’s allegations against the Americans “absurd”.

In an interview with The Christian Broadcasting Network on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “that’s not going to happen”.

“The administration is not going to send, force Americans to travel to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team,” Mr Pompeo said.

The Russian claims against the Americans, including former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, involve allegations of fraud and corruption.

Congressional Republicans have criticised the White House for even considering the offer, while Mr McFaul has called it a “ridiculous request from Putin”.

Pushing back against criticism of his Putin meeting, Mr Trump said on Thursday he wants another meeting with Mr Putin to start implementing ideas they discussed in Helsinki, casting the summit as a starting point for progress on a number of shared concerns.

Mr Trump also accused the news media of trying to provoke a confrontation with Moscow that could lead to war, although concerns about the meeting have been raised by a broad cross-section of Republicans and Democrats.

Mr Trump tweeted a list of topics discussed at the summit, including terrorism, security for Israel, Middle East peace, Ukraine, North Korea and more, and wrote: “There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems… but they can ALL be solved!”

“I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed,” he wrote. Mr Trump also met Mr Putin last year in Germany and Vietnam.

Despite the bipartisan criticism, Mr Trump pointed blame at the media, tweeting: “The Fake News Media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war. They are pushing so recklessly hard and hate the fact that I’ll probably have a good relationship with Putin. We are doing MUCH better than any other country!”

“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” he tweeted.

Numerous lawmakers have criticised Trump for his post-summit statements raising doubts about Russia’s interference in the 2016 US elections, and past and current intelligence community officials also differed with many of his statements.

Mr Putin, in his first public comments about the summit, told Russian diplomats on Thursday that US-Russian relations are “in some ways worse than during the Cold War,” but that the meeting with Mr Trump allowed them to start on “the path to positive change”.

“We will see how things develop further,” Mr Putin said, evoking unnamed “forces” in the US trying to prevent any improvement in relations and “putting narrow party interests above the national interest”.

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