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Trump’s Two Hours Alone With Putin Still Rattling Washington



(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin continues to unsettle lawmakers and foreign policy experts, who also gave the thumbs-down to a possible follow-up meeting at the White House.

“We need to know everything, and the president’s national security team needs to know everything” about the leaders’ two-hour meeting in Helsinki on July 16, Susan Rice, national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

Rice said it was an “historic mistake” to allow Trump — or any U.S. president — to sit down with Putin without note-takers or aides present in the room. “We have no idea what transpired,” she said.

“The Russians are feeding their line of what happened,” Rice said. “We are hearing no rebuttal or comment from the United States. Russia is dictating the public perception — the global public perception of what transpired in that meeting, and we have no basis for countering it.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Thursday that he was unaware of what transpired in the private Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki.

Only one other American heard the conversation between Trump and Russia’s president, an interpreter from the U.S. State Department. Republican lawmakers rejected a Democratic proposal to issue a subpoena for the translator to testify.

The potential for Trump to host Putin at the White House later this year for a follow-up summit drew bipartisan opposition in the wake of last week’s meeting.

“In Helsinki, @POTUS agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a tweet Thursday. “President Trump asked @AmbJohnBolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway.”

While it can be valuable to meet with countries that are adversaries, issuing an invitation is different, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, said on “Fox News Sunday.” Such invitations should be reserved for U.S. allies such as the U.K., Australia and Canada “who are with us day in and day out,” he said.

“Russia is not our friend, and tried to attack us,” Gowdy said in reference to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. He termed evidence of those efforts “overwhelming” and said Trump “needs to say that and act like it.”

Rice said she had no objection to engaging with Russia, including talking with Putin. Such events can be done discreetly, though, such as during pull-asides at multinational gatherings such as the G-20, without the “pomp and circumstance” of a summit.

“You must come prepared,” Rice said. “You must come to advance the United States’ agenda.”