'Say that again?': U.S. intelligence chief's shocked response to Putin invitation

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Trump has contradicted both himself and his advisers on this issue over the course of the week.

The fact the US President did not shut Putin down immediately suggests that either he did not understand these long-standing protections, or that he did - and ignored them anyway - in order to curry favour with Putin or punish an Obama appointee who has become a vocal critic of the President.

She said Trump's "frightened fawning over Putin is an embarrassment and a grave threat to our democracy".

The White House has announced that the Russian President has been invited to Washington later this year, despite mounting criticism over US President Donald Trump's failure to take Vladimir Putin to task over Moscow's meddling in the 2016 US presidential polls.

At times, the president and his advisers contradicted one another on where they stand on this issue, making it hard to discern where the administration really stands. "Well, we saw earlier this week in Helsinki what was truly an Orwellian moment".

Nobody paid much attention - probably because, in the same set of remarks, Trump was also trying to spin his remarks from his post-meeting news conference with Putin, where he failed to side with USA intelligence agencies regarding their assessment of Russia's election interference.

NEGROPONTE: Well, I think Mr. Coats was probably not the only high-ranking national security official to be kept in the dark. The President's equivocation signalled he either misunderstood Putin's intentions, or was willing to let Putin get what he wanted in Crimea despite universal opposition. Meanwhile, the press went back and forth with the White House over the meaning of a "no" Trump said when a reporter asked whether he felt Russians were actively trying to influence U.S. elections.

Subsequently, the president was broadly accused of siding with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community on this issue.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo on Saturday that the arrest of a Russian gun rights enthusiast on espionage charges in the United States was "unacceptable", his ministry said.

It prompted angry rebukes from Republicans as well as Democrats and forced the president into a rare public climbdown.

During the same press conference, Trump praised Putin's "incredible offer" of a deal to swap interrogations.

In an open letter to the RNC, Horn said Trump repeatedly denigrated Republican values "in spectacular fashion" in Helsinki. (They told him afterwards that any journalist would have asked the same question at that point in the press conference.) Over the next few days, Trump then attempted a stunningly bad walk back, called the media the "real enemy" of the American people, and came up with some creative ways to double down and deliberately extend the whole mess. In March, The New York Times reported that Trump "now believes he has settled into the job enough to rely on" his instincts "rather than the people who advise him". And yet he didn't press Putin on the issue when it came up in their press conference.

Trump was impressed with Putin after their meeting, the report claimed.

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It wasn't until more than 24 hours after the press conference that Trump took back his initial remarks, blaming a grammatical glitch as he read from a prepared statement: "The sentence should have been: I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russian Federation".

"I don't think he's cozying up", McDaniel said of Trump's relationship to Putin.

He clarified it a day later, claiming he should have said he didn't see any reason why it "wouldn't" be Russian Federation that meddled. "But the route to walking back the press conference was never going to run through something as simple as a double negative and an apostrophe".

He added: "Could be other people also; there's a lot of people out there".

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesTrump on Wednesday suggested Russian Federation is not planning future attacks on U.S. elections.

Coats' appearance at the Aspen Institute had generated some frustration at the White House.

This contradicted statements made by Coats earlier in the week.

How did Trump respond to Putin's suggestion?

Trump also caused confusion when he appeared to tell reporters Russian Federation was not targeting the 2018 election with further cyberattacks; the White House claimed he was responding to a different question. "Did I hear you?"

The president claimed he'd misspoke during his summit with Putin and agreed with the USA intelligence community that Russian Federation had interfered in the election, though he added it could be "other people also".

There was further confusion after the White House said Mr Trump "disagrees" with Mr Putin's offer to allow United States questioning of 12 Russians accused of election meddling in exchange for Russian interviews with the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and other Americans the Kremlin has linked to unspecified crimes.

"I haven't seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party", Nielsen said.

He did, however, tell CBS News this week that he holds Vladimir Putin responsible for election meddling.

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