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  1. ITV Report

Russia 'open' to President Donald Trump's offer of US visit for Vladimir Putin

Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin could meet again in the autumn. Photo: AP

President Donald Trump has invited Russian leader Vladimir Putin to the US this autumn.

Moscow has said they are "open" to discussing a possible visit by Mr Putin to Washington after the surprise offer, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. said on Friday.

With confusion still swirling around what the two men discussed behind closed doors in Helsinki earlier this week, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said it's important to "deal with the results" of their first summit before jumping too fast into a new one.

He said he hadn't seen Mr Trump's invitation himself, but that "Russia was always open to such proposals" and Moscow are "ready for discussions on this subject."

The Kremlin has the final say, but hasn't responded yet to the proposal made on Thursday.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said National Security Advisor John Bolton would be making the formal invitation following Mr Trump’s meeting with the Russian president earlier this week in Finland.

Ms Sanders said “those discussions are already underway” for an autumn meeting between the two presidents.

It is likely the meeting would take place at the White House, but Ms Sanders did not specify where the pair would meet.

News of the invite caught many in Washington off-guard.

“Say that again,” US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats responded, when informed of the invitation during an appearance at a security conference.

“OK,” he continued, pausing for a deep breath. “That’s going to be special.”

A White House meeting would be a dramatic extension of legitimacy to the Russian leader, who has long been isolated by the West for activities in Ukraine, Syria and beyond.

No Russian leader has visited the White House in nearly a decade.

In a tweet about Mr Putin earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump said, “I look forward to our second meeting.”

Following fierce criticism from Republicans and Democrats, President Trump rejected Mr Putin’s offer to allow the US to question 12 Russians accused of interfering in the 2016 election.

In return, Mr Putin wanted permission for Russia to interview Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes.

The Republican-controlled Senate issued a rebuke to Mr Trump by going on record against the offer.

Ms Sanders said the proposal was “made in sincerity” by the Russian president but Mr Trump “disagrees with it”.

She said the US hopes Mr Putin will have the Russians indicted on charges brought by the US Department of Justice “come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt”.

Vladimir Putin offered President Trump the opportunity to interview Russian suspects. Credit: AP

Mr Putin made what Mr Trump called an “incredible offer” as their Helsinki summit concluded, for which Mr Trump received bipartisan condemnation at home.

The White House had said on Wednesday it was under consideration, even though the State Department called Russia’s allegations against the Americans “absurd”.

In an interview with The Christian Broadcasting Network on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “that’s not going to happen”.

“The administration is not going to send, force Americans to travel to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team,” Mr Pompeo said.

The Russian claims against the Americans, including former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, involve allegations of fraud and corruption.

Mr Trump is facing bipartisan criticism for his refusal to publicly challenge Mr Putin over Russia’s election hacking . Credit: PA

Congressional Republicans have criticised the White House for even considering the offer, with Mr McFaul calling it a “ridiculous request from Putin”.

Ignoring his critics, Mr Trump said on Thursday that he wants another meeting with Mr Putin to start implementing ideas they shared in Helsinki, casting the summit as a starting point for a number of shared concerns.

Mr Trump tweeted a list of topics discussed at the summit, including terrorism, security for Israel, Middle East peace, Ukraine, North Korea and more.

The president's visit to the UK was widely protested. Credit: PA

The president has also been accused of backtracking on his comments in Helsinki, claiming he meant the opposite when he said that he does not see why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 US election.

On Tuesday, the president told reporters that he said he meant he does not see why Russia “wouldn’t” be responsible.

He also said he accepted the American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election, but he denied that his campaign had colluded in the effort.

During their Helsinki summit, the pair even joked about football. Credit: PA

Numerous lawmakers have criticised Trump for his post-summit statements raising doubts about Russia’s interference in the 2016 US elections.

Past and current intelligence community officials have also disagreed with many of his comments.

Mr Putin, in his first public remarks about the summit, told Russian diplomats on Thursday that US-Russian relations are “in some ways worse than during the Cold War,” but that the meeting with Mr Trump allowed them to start on “the path to positive change”.

“We will see how things develop further,” Mr Putin said, evoking unnamed “forces” in the US trying to prevent any improvement in relations and “putting narrow party interests above the national interest”.