US President Donald Trump’s proposed Washington meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has been delayed until 2019.

The national security adviser, John Bolton, in a statement, cited special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as the reason for the delay.

Bolton said: “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.”

While the statement signaled optimism that the Mueller investigation would be completed by the end of this year, no timetable has been given for when it will be wrapped up and it could very well stretch into 2019.

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The White House said last week that Trump had directed Bolton to invite Putin to Washington for a meeting in the fall. 

This came amid the backlash over Trump’s performance at a news conference with Putin following their Helsinki summit, and many members of Congress had objected to them meeting again in the fall.

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The decision came days after the White House rejected a Putin-backed effort to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine on the region’s future. 

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said on Wednesday, before the announcement, that the US would never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and demanded that Ukraine’s territorial integrity be restored.

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