President Trump has delayed a follow-up meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin until after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is finished, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Wednesday.
“The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,” Bolton said in a statement.
Last week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump had directed Bolton to extend an invitation to Putin to visit Washington later this year, days after the two met for a controversial summit in Helsinki, Finland.
Trump’s invitation for another meeting with Putin came as the White House sought to tamp down the firestorms that broke out in the wake of Trump’s first summit with Putin.
Trump took heat for initially appearing to accept Putin’s denial of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump later walked that back and said he misspoke.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also testified before a Senate committee that Russia would face “severe consequences” for future election interference.
The White House also made clear last week the president does not support the Russian leader’s proposal to allow his government to interview American officials in exchange for access to indicted Russians.
Earlier this month, a federal grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic Party during the 2016 election. All 12 defendants are members of GRU, the Russian intelligence agency.
“The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year.”
Mueller’s team has been investigating whether anyone associated with Trump’s campaign assisted the Russians, an effort Trump has repeatedly referred to as a “witch hunt” while insisting there was “no collusion.”
The administration had faced criticism for even entertaining Putin’s proposal about getting access to U.S. officials.
Trump, at their Helsinki press conference, had called the offer “incredible.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.