Trump delays proposed Putin meeting until 2019
The Trump administration Wednesday sought to fend off accusations the president is too soft on Russia, putting off a proposed second summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and declaring the U.S. will never recognize Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
As members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee peppered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with demands for details about last week’s summit in Finland, the White House said President Donald Trump had opted against trying to arrange another meeting with Putin this fall. Putin already had sent signals that he wasn’t interested in coming to Washington.
National security adviser John Bolton cited special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as the reason for the delay, although many members of Congress had objected to the meeting and said Putin would not be welcome on Capitol Hill.
“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,” Bolton said in a statement, using Trump’s favored but highly controversial term for the Mueller probe.
While the statement signaled optimism that the Mueller probe would be completed by the end of this year, no timetable has been given for when it will be wrapped up and it could very well stretch into 2019.
In his testimony, Pompeo faced often-contentious questioning from senators demanding information about what Trump discussed with Putin while they were alone for nearly two hours with only translators present.
Pompeo struggled to answer, insisting the president is entitled to have private meetings but stressing that he had a full understanding of the discussion. Heated questions were also posed about North Korea, NATO and Iran.
“It’s not for me to disclose the content of those conversations,” Pompeo said in response to one such barrage of questions.