WASHINGTON — White House national security adviser John Bolton released a statement Wednesday announcing that President Trump will not have another meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin until 2019. Bolton suggested the decision not to meet sooner was due to special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. 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 in a statement that was distributed to the White House press pool.
Trump met with Putin in Helsinki on July 16, three days after the Justice Department announced the indictment of 12 Russian military officers for conducting a “sustained effort” to hack Democrats’ emails and computer systems. Those indictments stemmed from Mueller’s investigation, which is also looking into whether Trump’s campaign cooperated with the Russian effort. Trump has repeatedly derided Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt” and emphatically insisted there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.
During his public appearances with Putin in Helsinki, Trump suggested he believed the Russian president’s denial that his intelligence officers interfered with the U.S. election. Trump’s comments provoked widespread outrage, since the American intelligence community had concluded Putin directed operations designed to boost Trump over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Days after the appearance in Helsinki, Trump suggested he misspoke and had meant to say he did not “see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia” that was responsible for the election cyberattacks.
On July 19, amid the controversy over Trump’s comments in Helsinki, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that the president directed Bolton to “invite President Putin to Washington in the fall.”
“Those discussions are already underway,” Sanders said.
However, Putin never accepted Trump’s invitation to meet in Washington. On Tuesday, a Kremlin official told reporters the pair could meet at “other international events.”
In Wednesday’s White House statement, Bolton indicated the Mueller probe would be over by Jan. 1. It was unclear why he believes the investigation will end by that date. The White House did not respond to multiple requests from Yahoo News seeking clarification.
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