President Trump has asked his White House to extend an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington later this year, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday.
“In Helsinki, @POTUS agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs. President Trump asked @Ambjohnbolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway,” Sanders tweeted.
Trump and Putin met in Helsinki, Finland on Monday. Earlier Thursday, Trump called the summit “a great success” and said he looked “forward to our second meeting.”
Meanwhile, the White House sought Thursday to tamp down another firestorm that broke out in the wake of Trump's summit this week with Putin, making clear the president does not support the Russian leader's proposal to allow his government to interview American officials.
"It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it," Sanders said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
The statement came as the administration faced a mounting backlash for even entertaining Putin's proposal, which pertained to the Robert Mueller probe.
The Russian leader on Monday had proposed an unusual quid pro quo, offering to let the special counsel team question newly indicted Russian officers as part of the election meddling case, if Russians could question certain U.S. individuals.
Trump, at their Helsinki press conference, called the offer “incredible.” On Wednesday, Sanders neither endorsed nor rejected the offer.
"He wants to work with his team and determine if there’s any validity that would be helpful to the process," Sanders said, noting that Trump has made no "commitment."
"The president is going to meet with his team," she said.
But the plan swiftly set off alarm bells in Washington, especially among Putin's apparent targets.
The first individual Putin voiced interest in questioning was Bill Browder, a prominent critic despised by the Kremlin for his role in pushing sanctions legislation around the world.
Browder, the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital, has worked for years to advocate on behalf of his associate Sergei Magnitsky, whom he had hired to uncover massive financial fraud in Russia. Magnitsky died in Russian police custody nearly a decade ago, allegedly beaten to death. Browder later successfully pushed Russia sanctions legislation named after Magnitsky in the U.S. and beyond.
Browder, an American-born British citizen, noted to Fox News that Trump would not have “jurisdiction” over him.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.