Just days after a historic meeting in Singapore with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump is setting his sights on Russia.
Friday morning, President Trump took a stroll on the front lawn of the White House, stopping for an impromptu interview with Steve Doocy from Fox & Friends-marking the first time any American president has held an unannounced and unexpected meeting with the press on the grounds of the White House.
During the half-hour long interview with Doocy, President Trump discussed the possibility of meeting with Putin, “ We may, and it started because a reporter shouted to me, ‘Should Putin be in the G7?’, I said no, he should be in the G8.”
“President Trump is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month while he is in Europe for a NATO summit,” The Washington Post wrote, citing “a senior administration official and two diplomats familiar with his schedule.”
According to the newspaper, Trump’s “interest in a meeting with Putin became public in March after the Kremlin disclosed that Trump extended an invitation in a phone call with the Russian leader. But US officials say Trump privately has been asking his aides for a bilateral meeting ever since he met with Putin in Vietnam in November on the sidelines of a multilateral economic summit.” “After that meeting, the president said he wanted to invite Putin to the White House,” a US official said as cited by The Washington Post. “We ignored it,” the official added.
The Washington Post went on to explain that, “at the time, top aides in the National Security Council opposed the idea of a meeting and said they didn’t view Trump’s interest in a summit as an order to set one up.” ‘They decided: Let’s wait and see if he raises it again,” said the official.
Tuesday, June 5th, President Vladimir Putin told an Austrian news outlet-ahead of his visit to Vienna-that he speaks with President Donald Trump “regularly”. This was in response to a question about special counsel Robert Mueller’s February indictment of three Russian organizations and 13 Russians when bringing up his relationship to the American president.
Putin has denied Russian meddling in the U.S. election stating, “patriotically minded” hackers may have been involved, but that they were separate from the Russian government.
“Indeed Donald Trump and I have, firstly, met more than once at various international venues,” Putin said according to an official transcript from the Kremlin’s website. “And secondly, we regularly talk over the phone,” he said.
According to readouts available on the White House website, this makes the eighth time the two presidents have spoken by phone since President Trump was elected.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, when asked about a potential meeting said, “we don’t exclude” the possibility but that no specifics have been discussed, reported the Associated Press.
Richard Hooker, senior White House official in charge of Europe, told Russian news agency Tass on Thursday, that the White House had been exploring the idea of meeting in Austria, boasting close ties with Moscow and Washington.
The Russian economy was dealt a heavy blow back in April by the Trump administration when sweeping sanctions were imposed against Russian oligarchs.
Trump also said on Friday, “I think it’s better to have Russia in than to have Russia out. Because just like North Korea, just like somebody else, it’s much better if we get along with them.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman is currently arranging delegations for Republican senators to visit Moscow, which will end the drought of congressional trips to Russia since the U.S.-Russia relationship hit historic lows after Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine. After a military intervention in Crimea in 2014, Russia was banned from the group, something that President Trump has been very outspoken about blaming on Obama.
“President Obama lost Crimea because President Putin didn’t respect President Obama, didn’t respect our country and didn’t respect Ukraine,” Trump said Friday to a group of reporters on the front lawn of the White House.
Per usual, many are doubting the meeting will be very productive, but look at all that doubted President Trump could de-escalate the tensions with North Korea, let alone his ability to not only meet with Kim Jong Un, but to begin the full denuclearization of the country. There were naysayers then too.
President Trump has continued to fulfil promises made, and to leave the mainstream media scrambling for ways to spin events they thought they would never have to cover in their career–especially not with the person they loathe the most, U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
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