US President Donald Trump has invited Russian leader Vladimir Putin to visit the US in the autumn, his press secretary says.

Sarah Sanders tweeted that discussions for the visit were already under way.

Earlier Mr Trump rejected a proposal by Mr Putin that Russia be allowed to question US citizens.

The two leaders held a summit in Finland on Monday but few details of what they discussed have emerged.

There has been no word from Russia about a second Trump-Putin meeting.

Controversy has raged over the Helsinki summit, with Mr Trump having to correct his own words from the press conference which followed it.

But on Thursday Mr Trump said the meeting was a “great success” and he was looking forward to their next meeting.

The announcement appeared to come as a surprise to US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who was told about it during a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum in the state of Colorado.

He laughed and said: “That’s going to be special.”

He added that he did not yet know what Mr Trump and Mr Putin discussed during their meeting, at which only their interpreters were also present.

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called for Mr Trump to reveal what he discussed with Mr Putin.

“Until we know what happened at that two-hour meeting in Helsinki, the president should have no more one-on-one interactions with Putin. In the United States, in Russia, or anywhere else,” he said in a statement.

Donald Trump has tweeted that the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “great success” and people at “higher ends of intelligence” loved his Helsinki news conference. As if to underline that point, plans are already under way for a sequel – this time in Washington DC.

Never mind that the White House has spent three days trying to clean up the political fallout from the summit amid bipartisan criticism, or that the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in 2016 continues apace.

Mr Trump may have been encouraged by recent opinion polling showing that while the public at large is uneasy with Mr Trump’s Russia policies, his Republican base – by a sizeable majority – is fine with his performance.

The president campaigned on closer ties with Russia, a goal that had been thwarted during his first year in office. With his base still behind him, Mr Trump appears ready to press on with his efforts.

The US president “disagrees” with a proposal made by Mr Putin that Russia be allowed to question US citizens in return for access to 12 Russians indicted by the US over alleged hacking and election interference.

The White House had earlier said it would consider the proposal, which Mr Trump called a “tremendous” gesture.

The idea of allowing a foreign power to quiz US citizens sparked outrage and the US Senate voted 98-0 against it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “not going to happen”.

It comes after Mr Putin, asked in Helsinki whether he would extradite the 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted in the US for hacking Democratic Party computers, said he would meet the US government “halfway”.

Mr Putin said Russia wanted to question US nationals the Kremlin accuses of “illegal actions”.

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who issued the indictments against the 12 Russians last week, said on Thursday that the US would seek to warn the public in the future when it believes foreign states are trying to influence elections.

“The Russian effort to influence the 2016 campaign is just one tree in a growing forest,” he said, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum.

The US citizens Russia would like to question are related to Moscow’s case against the financier Bill Browder, a fierce Putin critic who was instrumental in the US imposing sanctions in 2012 on top Russian officials accused of corruption.

Mr Browder told the BBC he was glad Mr Trump “isn’t going to hand me over to President Putin” and said the US leader should have immediately rejected the idea.

Russia was also seeking to interview Michael McFaul, another Putin critic who was US ambassador to Moscow under President Obama.

Allowing Russian officials to interview Mr McFaul would be a violation of the longstanding tradition that foreign diplomats have legal immunity.

Following his summit with Vladimir Putin, President Trump has been fighting accusations he failed to stand up to the Russian leader.

He clarified remarks he made at a news conference after the meeting, in which he said he saw no reason why Russia would meddle in the 2016 US election – despite US intelligence concluding just that.

Speaking to CBS News on Wednesday, Mr Trump said he held Mr Putin personally responsible for interfering in the election, and that he was “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling”.

Mr Putin has also described the summit as “successful” but warned “there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-US relations”.

 

BBC