The White House week when 'no' meant 'yes'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends her summer press conference in Berlin on Friday. — AFP

With Trump under fierce criticism in the United States, the White House on Thursday rejected Putin's proposal that Russian authorities be present for the questioning of Americans it accuses of "illegal activities", including a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow.

"I don't know what happened", Coats added, when asked about Putin's meetings with Trump in Helsinki.

Coats took the extraordinary step of publicly contradicting Trump shortly after the president's meeting with Putin in Helsinki, saying the American intelligence community stands by its assessment. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss planning, said the talks would also cover nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran and Syria.

Putin has been invited by Trump to the White House later this year, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also said Thursday. "I think he's very sensitive about going there because he thinks it undercuts his legitimacy". "I will say this - I don't see any reason why it would be".

He tweeted Monday as criticism of his comments started to emerge, stating his confidence in U.S. intelligence, but also pushed the necessity for a close working relationship with Russian Federation.

The shock disclosure blindsided the US President's intelligence chief Dan Coats who was speaking at a security conference when the news broke and responded with "OK".

Putin offered to let American officials watch Russian authorities question the 12 Russian military officers indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

She said Trump's "frightened fawning over Putin is an embarrassment and a grave threat to our democracy".

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I will say this: "I don't see any reason why it would be". "I don't see any reason why it would be", he said in a news conference after the summit.

He added that he did not yet know what Mr Trump and Mr Putin discussed during their meeting, at which only their interpreters were also present.

"This issue was discussed", Antonov said, apparently referring to the conflict itself and not a proposal for a referendum.

The announcement comes days after President Donald Trump faced a bipartisan backlash for his widely criticized comments immediately following his first meeting with the Russian leader.

With the fallout from the Putin meeting matching or eclipsing previous controversies in Trump's turbulent 18-month presidency, critics of his performance in Helsinki included many fellow Republicans.

The White House is still trying to clean up post-summit Trump statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The White House had to come out and issue another clarification, insisting it would not be happening.

Mixed messages from Trump have increased worries in Congress that the White House is not taking seriously the threat that senior officials say Russian Federation now poses to the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

Something we know was discussed was an offer from Putin to allow United States investigators question Russians in exchange for Moscow being allowed question United States citizens, including a former ambassador.

The White House backtrack came just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the idea.

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