White House Weighs Putin Proposal On Questioning US Officials

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After the outburst of news at the beginning of this week from President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting in Helsinki, Finland, we decided it was time to call a special midweek news roundtable to dig into the headlines.

On Tuesday, Trump said he misspoke at a Helsinki news conference with Putin and that he accepted intelligence agency conclusions about Russian election meddling, although he hedged by deviating from his prepared notes to say "it could be other people also".

By yesterday evening, Trump had reversed again, telling CBS News that he strongly confronted Putin about election interference during their one-on-one meeting this week - something Trump had not said during his joint press conference with Putin or in news interviews or press appearances following the meeting.

The Russia investigation is "a phoney witch-hunt" that has harmed relations with Moscow; Vladimir Putin has denied Kremlin meddling and Mr Trump believes him.

"No", Trump said, going on to say he had been tough on Russian Federation - which he said the news media consistently failed to report.

"And I think President Putin knows that better than anybody", Trump said.

After Sanders' comments, McFaul wrote on Twitter, "I hope the White House corrects the record and denounces in categorical terms this ridiculous request from Putin".

On Wednesday, part of our discussion on Russian Federation and election interference looked at how Trump's actions might be seen among his supporters. Ioffe says that she was always a skeptic of the notion that Putin had the goods on Trump. "President Trump undercut our intelligence, elevated a brutal dictator who's taking advantage of the United States. And there's been no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia", Trump told reporters before a cabinet meeting at the White House.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump actually was saying "no" to answering additional questions - even though he subsequently went on to address Russian Federation. "So certainly as the leader of the country you would have to hold him responsible".

Trump said he had been "very strong on the fact that we can't have meddling, we can't have any of that". He also noted that one of the other Americans that Putin wants to question is former congressional staffer Kyle Parker, who Browder said "single handedly drafted the Magnitsky Act that Putin hates so much".

But Texas Republican John Cornyn said the Senate should focus on "additional sanctions instead of just some messaging exercise".

On Tuesday, Trump read from a printed statement, and said he had misspoken in Helsinki.

Many had called on Trump to bring up the indictments during his one-on-one meeting with Putin.

During the Cabinet meeting, Mr. Trump otherwise talked more broadly about his Europe trip, mentioning the summit with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders in Brussels, his visit to the United Kingdom and meeting with Putin, saying "incredible progress" had been made.

While he may have been hesitant to label Russian Federation as an enemy of the United States, Donald Trump has not shown similar caution when speaking about his political enemies or his perceived adversaries in the American press.

The suggestion that the U.S. would hand over a former ambassador to Russian Federation caused deep disquiet in Washington. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., will try to force a vote Thursday on a resolution backing the intelligence community's findings that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 election and must be held accountable.

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