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White House invites Putin to Washington for fall meeting

By ZEKE MILLER, KEN THOMAS and LISA MASCARO, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unbowed by criticism over his Helsinki summit, President Donald Trump extended an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet in Washington in the fall, the White House said Thursday.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter that Trump had asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin, adding, "Those discussions are already underway." The invitation was announced hours after the president tweeted that he looked forward to "our second meeting" as he defended his performance Monday at the summit in which the two leaders conferred on a range of issues, including terrorism, Israeli security, nuclear proliferation and North Korea.

"There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems ... but they can ALL be solved!" Trump tweeted.

The announcement of the invitation came as the White House sought to clean up days of confounding statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election that sent Trump to the presidency. Trump's public doubting of Russia's responsibility in a joint news conference with Putin on Monday provoked withering criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike and forced the president to make a rare public admission of error.

On Thursday, the White House said Trump "disagrees" with Putin's offer to swap the questioning of 12 Russians accused of 2016 election interference for an interview with the former U.S. ambassador.

The White House retreated from what Trump had called Putin's "incredible offer" during the Helsinki summit, revising its position just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the plan. It was Congress' first formal rebuke of Trump's actions from the summit and its aftermath.

Sanders said Putin's proposal was "made in sincerity," but Trump "disagrees with it." She said the U.S. hopes Putin will have the indicted Russians "come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt."

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Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann in Aspen, Colorado, and Mary Clare Jalonick, Matthew Daly, Tami Abdollah and Susannah George in Washington contributed to this report.

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