'Good for all' that Trump, Putin plan to meet again - Merkel

Dem senator Even Trump's appointees say Russia is still targeting US

Coats, who oversees and coordinates the CIA, NSA and other U.S. espionage bodies, likewise said at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, that he was surprised at Thursday's announcement that discussions were underway over Putin visiting the White House later this year.

Coats also said he did not know beforehand that Trump planned to host Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russia's then-ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, in the Oval office in May of 2017.

Trump asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to Washington in the fall to follow up on issues they discussed this week in Helsinki, Finland, the official said.

Ukraine and European powers are unlikely to support a referendum in the Donbass region, where pro-Russian separatists hold sway.

He took a deep breath and continued, saying: "OK". He said he had mis-spoken when he appeared to side with Putin, who denies any state-sanctioned interference, over his own agencies. He added any effort to organize a "so-called referendum" would have "no legitimacy".

A White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity did not specify if that included Russia's interference in U.S. elections. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, said the talks would also cover nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran and Syria.

An interview with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reportedly ruffled feathers in the White House, particularly after the USA intelligence chief made remarks that appeared to undercut President Donald Trump's appearance at the Helsinki summit on Monday.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are seeking answers on what agreements Mr Trump may have reached with Mr Putin in their two-hour meeting on Monday in which they were accompanied only by their interpreters. Now, that he's the country's top intelligence official, Coats said he prefers to stay out of the headlines. But he said, "Russia was always open to such proposals".

Thursday's announcement came as the White House sought to clean up days of confounding Trump statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

By Tuesday, after congressional blowback and criticism from outside advisors, Trump reversed himself and said he meant to say that he didn't see any reason why Russian Federation wouldn't - as opposed to would - intervene in the elections.

The Russian ambassador to Washington also denounced "anti-Russian anger" in the United States and reiterated denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election - interrupting a questioner to say "We didn't interfere!"

"I know in this particular case, the person was a direct employee, but if we are going to start getting translator's notes, I think we are moving to a precedent that - unless some crime has been committed - is unprecedented and just not appropriate".

Huckabee Sanders also announced that the White House would not proceed with a plan to extradite USA citizens to Russian Federation for questioning in exchange for Russian Federation allowing its intelligence officials to be questioned as part of the Mueller probe.

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