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Trump adviser Bolton says Putin invite to White House delayed until Mueller 'witch hunt' over

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Trump adviser Bolton says Putin invite to White House delayed until Mueller 'witch hunt' over

Image: Trump meets with Putin in Helsinki, Finland
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Kevin Lamarque Reuters file
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President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said Wednesday that any meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin would be put off until 2019 because of special counsel Robert Mueller's "witch hunt."

"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," Bolton said in a statement that was notable for the senior adviser's use of the term "witch hunt" when discussing diplomatic matters.

Mueller has given no indication when his investigation of Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Moscow will come to an end.

The shift marks a stunning turnaround for the president, who had faced intense blowback from Republican lawmakers after his cozy summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland last week.

At a joint press conference during the summit, Trump railed against Mueller and members of the news media and suggested that Putin was more credible than his own intelligence chief, Dan Coats, who has accused Russia of undertaking an "unprecedented influence campaign" in 2016.

Trump's performance was widely ripped by lawmakers of all stripes, who slammed his remarks as "treasonous" and "disgraceful."

Despite an attempt to walk back some of his remarks less than 24 hours later, Trump, amid ongoing criticism,invited Putin to the White House this fall for second summit.