Trump floated White House meeting with Putin

Trump floated White House meeting with Putin
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet at the White House, but the two governments have not begun planning a possible summit, the Kremlin said Monday.

Trump floated the White House as a potential venue during a March 20 phone call with Putin, in which the U.S. president ignited controversy by congratulating his Russian counterpart on his reelection victory. Both sides previously acknowledged the two leaders discussed a meeting.

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“Trump proposed to hold the first meeting in Washington, in the White House, when our presidents spoke by phone,"  Putin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

The White House acknowledged that Trump did propose the White House as a meeting spot, among other locations. 

“As the president himself confirmed on March 20, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the ‘not-too-distant future’ at a number of potential venues, including the White House,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who declined to comment further.

Ushakov said no planning discussions have taken place.  

Since the March 20 call, the Trump administration has expelled 60 Russian diplomats and shuttered the Russian consulate in Seattle over the nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in England. The U.S. was joined by more than two dozen allies around the world in doling out punishments.

Moscow has denied the allegations the government was responsible for the attack and has retaliated by expelling dozens of Western diplomats.

"Against the backdrop of these events, it's difficult to discuss the possibility of holding a summit," Ushakov said, according to Reuters.

Trump drew widespread criticism when it was revealed he failed to personally confront Putin during their call over the poisoning of the ex-spy, dismissing the advice of his aides.  

His decision to offer an invitation to Putin at the White House could further enflame his critics, who say he has been too soft on the Russian leader. 

Trump has said maintaining a relationship with Putin is key to mending ties between the U.S. and Russia.