President Trump says that he will invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House, but only at “the right time.”
“I don’t think this is the right time, but the answer is yes, I would,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Wednesday, as he traveled to France. “Look, it’s very easy for me to say absolutely, I won’t. That’s the easy thing for me to do, but that’s the stupid thing to do.
“If you don’t have dialogue, you have to be fools.”
Trump’s comments follow his first meeting with Putin during the Group of 20 summit in Germany last week. The meeting, originally scheduled for 30 minutes, lasted more than two hours. It included only Trump, Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and two translators.
The two diplomats shared conflicting accounts of what was discussed during the meeting. Lavrov claimed that Trump “accepted” Putin’s denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, while Tillerson said Trump confronted Putin over Moscow's election meddling, pressing him despite Putin’s denials.
Trump said in an interview Wednesday that he was “very tough” with Putin during the meeting.
Trump has not indicated if he would sign a new Russian sanctions bill currently stalled in Congress. Tillerson has said the bill could tie Trump's hands.
The president has long expressed desire to see closer relations between Moscow and Washington. Democrats have been quick to criticize Trump for praising Putin, who is accused of crushing political opposition and ordering the assassination of journalists.