White House says next Trump-Putin meeting delayed

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint press conference on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

The follow-up meeting President Donald Trump proposed holding with his Russian counterpart in the fall will no longer happen this year, the White House said on Wednesday.

“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,” Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement.

The second set of talks, which Trump instructed Bolton to organize last week, drew surprise and consternation among some national security officials. The invitation was abruptly announced on Twitter by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Moscow had yet to accept before the delay was announced.

“In Helsinki, @POTUS agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs,” Sanders wrote. “President Trump asked @Ambjohnbolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway.”

The news caught at least one senior administration off guard. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was being interviewed on stage when the announcement came. He reacted with shock, angering some in the White House. He was later forced to apologize.

The Kremlin, which acknowledged the invitation last week, did not immediately accept. Instead, a spokesman suggested the talks could occur on the sidelines of international summits.

“There was no discussion of future contacts at the Helsinki meeting, but several days later the United States suggested hosting the next summit in Washington at the end of the year,” a Kremlin aide was quoted saying in TASS, the state-run news agency. “The offer was conveyed by US National Security Adviser John Bolton. Trump also touched upon this matter in his statements.”

“Practical steps to prepare for that meeting have not yet begun,” the aide said.

He did not rule out that the possibility that Putin and Trump could meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina and other international forums attended by both leaders.