White House Says Trump ‘Looks Forward’ to Putin Summit in U.S.

(Bloomberg) -- The White House expects to host Russian President Vladimir Putin in Washington for a summit with Donald Trump next year, press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday, hours after the Russian leader said he’d also be willing to meet the U.S. president in Moscow.

Trump “looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year" and would also be "open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation," Sanders said in a statement.

The comments served as indication the Trump Administration viewed the Russian president’s remarks at a press conference at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg earlier Friday as agreeing to Trump’s prior invitation to Washington. Putin said he was ready for additional talks and praised his U.S. counterpart for sticking to his election pledges to improve ties between the two countries.

“One of President Trump’s big pluses is that he strives to fulfill the promises he made to voters, to the American people,” Putin said. “As a rule, after the elections some leaders tend to forget what they promised the people, but not Trump.”

Putin, who said he expects to meet Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 summit of major economies in Argentina from Nov. 30-Dec. 1, said contacts are continuing with the U.S. despite the political furor over Russia’s alleged election meddling.

“Regarding our meetings, I understand very well what President Trump told me. He has a desire to hold further meetings. I am ready for that, but we need to have the appropriate conditions,” Putin said.

“We’re ready to invite President Trump to Moscow,” he added. “By the way, he has such an invitation, I told him about that.” Putin also said he’s ready to go to Washington to meet. “We have contacts at a working level but this is sometimes not enough, you need to talk at the highest level.”

Meeting Postponed

It’s not clear if the Kremlin intended Putin’s remarks as a formal acceptance of the invitation, extended by National Security Adviser John Bolton, for a summit in Washington. The offer came after Trump provoked bipartisan furor at his July 16 summit with Putin in Helsinki by casting doubts over U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia intervened to help get him elected in 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Tuesday that Putin would not be welcome in the Capitol if he accepted Trump’s invitation to visit Washington.

Earlier this week, Bolton said the meeting would be postponed until 2019, citing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“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.

The investigation has become a source of frequent frustration for the administration, with new revelations dominating headlines regularly. On Thursday, CNN reported Trump’s former personal attorney is prepared to tell federal investigators that the president knew in advance about a June 2016 meeting where Russians were expected to offer damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

‘Minimize Risks’

The Russian president also said his country doesn’t plan to abandon holding reserves in U.S. dollars, though he said that the risk of sanctions is prompting Russia to diversify its foreign currency assets.

“Russia isn’t abandoning the dollar,” Putin said in response to a question about the sharp decline in its holdings of U.S. Treasuries in April and May. “We need to minimize risks, we see what’s happening with sanctions.”

“As for our American partners and the restrictions they impose involving the dollar,” he added, “I think that is a major strategic mistake because they’re undermining confidence in the dollar as a reserve currency.”

In the wake of the Helsinki summit, U.S. lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties have proposed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia. The country is already subject to a raft of American punitive measures over its annexation of Crimea, support for Ukrainian separatists and the alleged vote interference in the U.S.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.