U.S. President Donald Trump, who is fighting off allegations of ties between his election campaign and Moscow, said he would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House but added that now was not the right time for that, Reuters reported.
The Republican president drew criticism last week from Democrats who accused him of not pressing Putin hard enough at a meeting they held in Germany over Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
Accusations that Moscow meddled in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign have dominated Trump's first months in office. Russia denies meddling, and Trump says there was no collusion.
Trump's comments came as he defended his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign after he was told she might have damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump told Reuters on Wednesday that he did not know about his son's meeting until recently. But in a conversation with reporters later that day, Trump said that "in fact maybe it (the meeting) was mentioned at some point," adding he was not told it was about Clinton.
Trump has said he wants to work with Moscow on issues like Syria, and told reporters traveling with him on Air Force One to Paris that he was open to the idea of inviting Putin to the White House at some point.
"I don’t think this is the right time, but the answer is yes, I would," when asked if he would extend such an invitation to the Russian leader. The comments were released by the White House on Thursday.