After the White House said Trump does not want to meet with Putin until next year, the Russian dictator is calling his bluff.
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin once again demonstrated his dominance over Trump by inviting him to Moscow, just after reports that Putin had not accepted Trump's invitation to the White House.
That apparent rejection led the Trump administration to backtrack and claim it no longer wanted to have a meeting until next year, even though Trump had tweeted last week that he was looking forward to their "second meeting."
"The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year," said national security advised John Bolton in a statement.
Now Putin seems to be calling that bluff, daring Trump to meet with him even before the supposed "witch hunt" is over.
"We are ready to invite President Trump to Moscow," Putin said at a summit in Johannesburg. "He has this invitation already and I told him about it."
He also said that "necessary conditions" need to be in place to make a meeting happen.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded in a statement Friday morning: "President Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year, and he is open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation."
Notably, Sanders did not say that Trump would not be willing to travel to Moscow until after the first of the year.
But since Trump could not contain his excitement about meeting with Putin again, the whole world — including the Russian leader — already knows that Trump is eager for another summit and unlikely to want to wait until next year.
Of course, there is no way to know what invitations were extended, or what else was said, during the one-on-one meeting in Helsinki last week because the White House did not allow anyone else in to observe the two leaders together.
Furthermore, the White House did not provide details of the summit or what issues were discussed. The only people who know what happened during their private meeting are Trump and Putin.
What is known is what Trump said in public, standing on stage next to Putin. That's when Trump slammed the ongoing investigation by federal agencies into Russian election tampering. He also suggested he would consider handing over American diplomats to be interrogated by Russia for supposed crimes against the country.
Most humiliating for the White House, though, was a report that Putin might not accept the invitation.
"There are other options (to meet) which our leaders can look at," said Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov. "Maybe there will be other international events which Trump and Putin will take part in."
That's when Bolton said the White House had changed its mind about meeting again this year.
The diplomatic back-and-forth comes as reports that Russian hackers tried to break in to computer systems connected to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
McCaskill's Missouri seat is one Republicans have targeted as part of their 2018 campaign strategy. At the same time, Trump has made the baseless assertion that Russia wants to interfere in this year's election to help the Democratic Party.
Given Trump's bizarre performance at last week's summit, and his overtures to Putin after the summit, it's no surprise that a majority of Americans believe the Russian dictator has dirt on Trump. What else could explain Trump's behavior and continued deference to Russia?
Intelligence agencies have determined, along with the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Russia's interference in the 2016 election was designed to help elect Trump.
Trump's actions have done nothing to cast doubt on those conclusions. Instead, his behavior and public statements continue to raise more questions and heighten suspicion about Trump's dealings with Russia.
And Putin is clearly enjoying watching Trump squirm.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.