WASHINGTON — National Security Adviser John Bolton said President Donald Trump wants a second meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin “after the Russia witch hunt is over,” a time that Trump believes will be in 2019.
“We’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,” Bolton said in a written statement.
The term “witch hunt” is a phrase Trump frequently employs to describe Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Putin’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Trump had initially asked Bolton to invite Putin to Washington in the fall.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin signaled that Putin was unsure about meeting the initial date.
“Maybe there will be other international events which Trump and Putin will take part in,” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters, according to Reuters.
Trump faced shouted questions on the summit after returning to Washington on Friday, but declined to speak to reporters.
The potential summit comes on the heels of a one-on-one meeting with Trump and Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16.
Trump faced bipartisan criticism after declining to condemn Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections to Putin’s face, as well as for casting doubt on the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia did, in fact, interfere.
The following day Trump clarified that he trusted his intelligence community’s conclusion.
On Tuesday, Trump suggested that Russian meddling could impact the 2018 midterm elections as well, this time in favor of Democratic candidates.
I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2018
The president did not provide any reason for this belief.
Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesperson, told reporters aboard Air Force One that Trump thinks Democrats will be bolstered by Russia since they aren’t currently the major party.
“The fact that he believes they’re going to meddle on behalf of the Democrats, you know, I refer you back to those comments,” Gidley said. “But they’re the party out of power so, when he tweeted that, that’s what he was looking at.”