Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a joint press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump Monday at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo
July 19 (UPI) -- Amid mounting criticism for President Donald Trump's meeting this week with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the White House on Thursday said work was underway to arrange for the Russian's visit to Washington, D.C., in the fall.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump agreed to pursue a working-level dialogue with Putin after the Helsinki summit.
"President Trump asked [Ambassador John Bolton] to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway," she tweeted.
Her confirmation came hours after Trump hinted at such a meeting in a series of tweets in which he defended his comments during the summit, and quoted Fox News for saying he has recognized Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election "many times."
He took issue with critics calling the Helsinki summit a failure.
"The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media," he wrote. "I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed."
The president said issues like "stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more" can all be solved.
"There are many answers, some easy and some hard."
Trump again turned his ire to news media after three days of critical coverage.
"The Fake News Media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war," one tweet read. "They are pushing so recklessly hard and hate the fact that I'll probably have a good relationship with Putin. We are doing MUCH better than any other country!"
Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, appeared stunned at the news of plans for Putin to visit the United States. NBC News' Andrea Mitchell informed him of the White House's announcement of the visit while he was on stage at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
"Say that again," Coats said to Mitchell with a laugh.
"OK," he added. "That's going to be special."
During the forum, he said he wished Trump had not met with Putin alone in Helsinki.
"If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way," Coats, said. "But that's not my role, that's not my job...it is what it is."
Earlier Thursday, Putin accused some in the United States of trying to damage relations for "narrow party interests," called the Finland summit a success and said it's led to "useful agreements."
"Of course, it remains to be seen how the situation will develop, especially given that certain forces in America are trying to belittle and undermine the results of the meeting," he said.
"They are feeding millions of their people stories."
Trump has faced fierce criticism since Monday, particularly for remarks at a joint news conference in which he accepted Putin's insistence that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election -- a conclusion at sharp odds with the entire U.S. intelligence community.
"They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia," Trump told reporters at the conference. "I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."
Trump later said he misspoke, and another interaction with reporters later swirled even more controversy.
Accused of being too soft on Russia, Trump told the CBS Evening News on Wednesday he confronted Putin at the summit about meddling in U.S. affairs and said he told Putin "we can't have meddling."
Some in Congress are now calling for a court to subpoena notes from Trump's translator in Helsinki, who was present during the leaders' meetings.
Some Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Trump over the comments, with some GOP Senate leaders saying they're working on legislation to punish Moscow if it attempts to subvert the 2018 midterms or future political processes.
Because the issue has been such a pressing matter this week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told colleagues he may bring the bill straight to the floor and skip the committee process.
The White House hasn't said whether Trump supports the sanctions bill or similar measures also under consideration.
A number of current and former U.S. officials have since reaffirmed the intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow did indeed meddle. Joining the chorus of those voices Thursday was Trump's first press secretary, Sean Spicer.
Spicer was unequivocal about whether Moscow is guilty of meddling.
"I think it's very important to be clear that Russia meddled in our election, and there's no evidence of collusion," he told NBC's Today.
Spicer added that he does not agree with Trump that special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is a "witch hunt."
This week's controversy has also prompted Time magazine to create another stark image for its July 30 cover -- a morphed image of Trump and Putin, as the same person.
The magazine said the composite image, created by visual artist Nancy Burson, is meant to represent this particular moment in U.S. foreign policy.
Last month, at the height of outcry over migrant family separations at the Mexico border, the magazine produced a cover showing Trump looking down at a crying migrant child. A caption on the cover read, "Welcome to America."