Trump and Putin may meet as probe heats up
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet next week at an economic summit in Vietnam, a Kremlin spokesman said yesterday, even as the investigation in the United States into Russian election meddling heats up.
Mr Trump is heading on a trip to Asia this weekend that is scheduled to include a stop at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, which Mr Putin is also scheduled to attend.
Asked if there were plans for the two presidents to meet, Mr Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said "we aren't ruling out a Putin-Trump meeting in Vietnam" and that the details "are being co-ordinated now". It would be their second meeting as world leaders.
"The importance for international affairs of any contact between the Russian and US presidents can hardly be overestimated," Mr Peskov told reporters on his daily conference call.
Mr Trump's tour will begin in Japan with a golf outing with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tomorrow. It will also include meetings in Tokyo, and then further stops in South Korea, China, and the Philippines.
The Kremlin on Wednesday offered condolences after the most lethal terrorist attack in New York City since 2001.
But Moscow and Washington have been at odds on nearly everything else since Mr Putin and Mr Trump held their first meeting at a summit of the Group of 20 world powers, in Hamburg, in July.
Mr Trump, in August, signed on a tough new sanctions law against Russia, which the Kremlin cast as the end of hopes that the new US president would build better ties. Mr Putin later ordered the US mission to Russia to reduce its staff by more than half. There is also the ongoing investigation into whether Russia attempted to influence the 2016 US presidential election, where charges have been handed down for the first time.
Mr Peskov dismissed as "baseless" and "ludicrous" the notion that charges levelled by special counsel Robert Mueller against three former Trump campaign officials constituted proof that Russia meddled in US political affairs.
The plea agreement of one of the officials described his extensive efforts to broker connections with Russian officials and arrange a meeting between them and the Trump campaign. It also said he had made contact with a London-based professor who promised him "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, compiled by the Russians, including thousands of emails.
Mr Putin says he thinks Mr Trump "agreed" with assurances that Russia did not interfere in US elections
Meanwhile, Mr Trump said yesterday that the US military has stepped up its attacks against Isil following Tuesday's New York City truck attack.
The alleged attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, told FBI interrogators that he was inspired by the terrorist group, and Mr Trump's tweets that the group claimed him as "their soldier".
Mr Trump says: "Based on that, the military has hit Isil 'much harder' over the last two days. They will pay a big price for every attack on us."
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Trump approved any direct retaliatory strikes following the attack.
The president is calling Saipov a "degenerate animal". The militant group declared that the attacker was a "soldier of the caliphate".
A declaration by Isil fell short of claiming that it had co-ordinated or directed the attack, but instead suggested the rampage was inspired by the militant group.
Law enforcement officials in the United States had said previously the suspect appeared to be guided by Isil ideology.
Federal authorities charged Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant, with carrying out the attack, saying it appears he was radicalised online sometime after coming to the United States in 2010.
They say he chose Halloween to inflict maximum carnage, and he could potentially face the death penalty.
While investigators continue to probe whether he had any communications or direction from any Isil officials, that does not appear to be the case so far, law enforcement officials said.
Precisely how Isil responds to attacks can signify its possible level of involvement.
After the 2015 attacks in Paris, highly detailed news releases were quickly distributed.
But, in other cases, claims of attackers as "soldiers" will follow only after media reports emerge publicly showing that a suspect, or suspects, had declared their allegiance to the group.