President Donald Trump stops to speak to members of the media as he arrives for Easter services with first lady Melania Trump at Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Fla., Sunday, April 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
MOSCOW (AP) — An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump invited the Russian leader to the White House when they spoke by telephone last month, but the two countries haven't started any preparations for such a visit.
Trump and Putin had a telephone conversation on March 20 in which Trump congratulated Putin on winning the Russian presidential election two days earlier. The White House and the Kremlin said at the time the two presidents discussed meeting in person.
Trump specifically invited Putin to the White House during the call, Putin aide Yuri Ushakov told Russian news agencies Monday.
However, their governments didn't have time to start arranging a meeting before the United States joined Britain and more than two dozen allies in sanctioning Russia over the nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in England, Ushakov said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump invited Putin to Washington during the call, but said the White House was among "a number of potential venues" the two leaders discussed for a bilateral meeting.
"As the President himself confirmed on March 20, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the 'not-too-distant future' at a number of potential venues, including the White House," Sanders said, adding that the administration had no further comment on the matter.
Some Republican lawmakers criticized Trump for making the congratulatory call to Putin. Trump defended his decision on Twitter, saying President Barack Obama did the same in 2012.
During the call, Trump didn't raise Russia's meddling in U.S. elections or its suspected involvement in the poisoning of the former spy and his daughter in Britain.
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