By Ayesha Rascoe
PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House but that now was not the right time for that.
"I don’t think this is the right time, but the answer is yes, I would," Trump said when asked if he would extend such an invitation to the Russian leader.
He was speaking to reporters on Air Force One during a flight from the United States to France in comments released by the White House on Thursday.
Trump, a Republican, last week drew criticism 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 told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that he had asked Putin if he was involved in Russian interference in the campaign.
Trump said he spent the first 20 or 25 minutes of his more than two-hour meeting with Putin last Friday in Hamburg on the subject.
"I said, 'Did you do it?' And he said, 'No, I did not. Absolutely not.' I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not," Trump said.
U.S intelligence agencies said earlier this year that Russia sought to help Trump win the 2016 election by hacking private emails from Democratic Party officials and disseminating false information online.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Peter Cooney)