Trump, at Putin’s side, questioned American intelligence about Russian electoral interference.
President Trump, standing next to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, publicly challenged on Monday the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election in an extraordinary display of trust for an adversarial leader.
Before the news conference in Helsinki, Finland, the men spoke privately for about two hours with only interpreters present. Democrats and former officials denounced that decision, pointing to the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials in the special counsel’s investigation into election meddling.
“I don’t see any reason” Russia would be behind such interference, Mr. Trump said, citing Mr. Putin’s “strong and powerful” denial during their meeting. His words prompted rebukes from Democrat and Republican lawmakers, former government officials and American intelligence officials.
As intelligence officials stood by their findings and lawmakers pushed for more information, Trump and his aides offered conflicting explanations for his remarks.
Facing almost universal condemnation and some accusations of poor judgment and treason, Mr. Trump claimed on Tuesday that he had misspoken while discussing whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 election. It was, he said, a bungled attempt at a double negative.
But in the days after, the president and aides offered conflicting narratives about Mr. Trump’s promises and performance during the private meeting, narratives that were countered by the Kremlin’s accounts. The confusion prompted some lawmakers, primarily Democrats, to call for the president’s interpreter to testify before Congress about the meeting.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans scrambled on Tuesday to respond to the damage done by Mr. Trump’s comments at the summit meeting, weighing new sanctions and asserting support for alliances with Europe. But on Thursday, they blocked a series of measures — largely put forward by Democrats — intended to publicly censure Mr. Trump over the meeting and isolate Republican leaders.
The president plans to invite Putin to Washington, a gesture that seemed to catch his top intelligence chief off guard.
The White House announced Thursday that Mr. Trump planned to invite Mr. Putin to visit Washington in the fall, describing it as a chance to continue the dialogue the two leaders had started in Helsinki.
Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, appeared surprised when he learned of the invitation during a national security conference in Aspen, Colo. He promised a candid assessment of the dangers such a visit would entail.
Mr. Coats has publicly defended this week the conclusion that intelligence officials reached before Mr. Trump took office: that Mr. Putin had personally ordered cyberattacks to influence the 2016 election. Ahead of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, intelligence officials showed him classified information indicating Mr. Putin’s involvement.
IN OTHER POLITICAL NEWS
A secret recording of the president’s discussions with his longtime lawyer; an accused Russian agent; midterm election primaries; and more.
Prosecutors said on Wednesday that Maria Butina, a Russian charged with conspiracy and illegally acting as an agent of the Russian government, pursued a brazen plan for four years in an attempt to influence powerful Republicans toward pro-Russia policies.
The president’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The F.B.I. seized the recording, made two months before the election, during a raid this year on Mr. Cohen’s office.
The Interior Department proposed the most sweeping series of changes in decades to the Endangered Species Act, the law that saved the bald eagle and the grizzly bear.
Representative Martha Roby of Alabama, a conservative forced into a runoff election after criticizing the president and his policies, won the primary on Tuesday for the general election. But other Republican candidates are weighing the merits of aligning or distancing themselves from Mr. Trump.
The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it would end a requirement that certain nonprofit organizations disclose the names of large donors to the Internal Revenue Service. The change will affect thousands of labor unions, social clubs and political groups.