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According to the Russian president, in that case Moscow would expect Washington to allow Russian investigators to question U.S. officials and intelligence officers whom Russian authorities suspect of committing offences on Russian soil.

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats' drumbeat of criticism against Russian Federation is clashing loudly with President Donald Trump's pro-Kremlin remarks, leaving the soft-spoken spy chief in an uncomfortable - and perhaps perilous - seat in the administration.

Trump appeared to buy the denial, to the outrage of opponents and even some Republicans back home, despite his intelligence advice and a widening probe by United States special counsel Robert Mueller that indicted 12 alleged Russian agents last week.

Tempers flared during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on Wednesday over the Trump administration's lack of accountability to Congress following two unprecedented and secretive meetings between the president and foreign adversaries in North Korea and Russian Federation.

"On challenging what happened at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, what happened at Helsinki, I will take a backseat to no one in this body", Corker said in the hearing.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump's "no" was meant to indicate that he didn't want to take questions.

The White House was once again sent into clean-up mode Wednesday when Trump said "no" when a reporter asked him if Russian Federation was still targeting the United States.

As secretary of state, Trump's 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton famously pressed a large button marked "reset" to denote a fresh start to ties with Russian Federation.

And then, without any change in Kremlin policy, Trump agreed to sit down one-on-one with Putin. "And now, we have what may seem as unlimited questions about the summit in Helsinki", said Menendez. "I consider them very successful and useful", he said. Still, Trump backtracked on whether Russian Federation is now targeting US elections.

Trump did walk back his post-Putin summit comments yesterday, saying he'd misspoken when he said he saw no reason why it was Russian Federation that had interfered in the 2016 election. Susan Collins of ME said of Trump's one-word response.

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But the election collusion probe was a distraction as it undermined relations between two countries that wield 90 percent of the world's nuclear arsenal, Trump said. "I don't know what it is about the president's relationship with Putin that causes him to doubt, to trust him over our intelligence community, but it's really damaging morale".

"He said it was an interesting idea".

In the House, Democrats are also readying responses, though the focus there is on stopping an amendment to a Defense spending bill that would water down sanctions on Russian Federation.

"We're looking at the precedent" in regards to calls for the notes the translator took during President Trump's meeting with Putin, said Corker.

Putin said they had also agreed to differ on Iran, after Trump pulled out of an global pact created to curb the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.

The Russia investigation is "a phoney witch-hunt" that has harmed relations with Moscow; Vladimir Putin has denied Kremlin meddling and Mr Trump believes him.

"I will give the ball to you and now the ball is in your court".

"I think the president did a good thing by meeting with Putin and I think it's a mistake for people to try to turn this into a partisan escapade", the Kentucky Republican said on CBS.

"If it were me, I'd check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House", hawkish Republican Senator Lyndsey Graham said on Twitter.

The exchange appeared to amuse the two leaders but it became another bone of contention in Washington.


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