The White House effort to have Russian President Vladimir Putin come to Washington in September or October sends a mixed signal after the Trump administration has been doing damage control since it returned from the meeting between the two leaders in Helsinki, Finland, according to CBS News’ chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett.
Set to take place in the fall, Garrett said the meeting will complicate the issue surrounding the midterm elections, especially since the intelligence community has sounded the alarm about possible Russian meddling in those races.
Putin’s arrival in Washington — if it happens — comes just ahead of those 2018 midterm elections, so whatever the White House says about whether their attitude or disagreements with the infiltration mechanisms undertaken by the Russians would certainly be complicated by the fanfare of a summit in D.C. between the two presidents, Garrett said.
Meanwhile, the White House responded Thursday to Putin’s offer to Mr. Trump on Monday that he would allow special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to go to Moscow for interviews with 12 Russians he indicted last week. Mr. Trump said Monday it "was an incredible offer."
But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday "it is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it."
Garrett said that Mr. Trump distinctly left behind an impression at Helsinki that he was willing to have Russian security services cooperate with the United States — possibly come to America — to question Americans about alleged crimes in Russia. That’s what would have needed to happen for Putin to cooperate with Mueller’s office.
"To put it mildly, the U.S. intelligence community was deeply disturbed about the implications of that and it took three days, but the White House after being prevailed upon has reversed itself and has now made it clear that that’s not going to happen," Garret added.