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"If we can do something to substantially reduce them, I mean, ideally get rid of them, maybe that's a dream, but certainly it's a subject that I'll be bringing up with him", Trump said of his upcoming meeting with Putin. "I have a lot of respect for the prime minister", said Trump. And we will, of course, ask your favourite question about meddling.

Trump said he does not anticipate a "Perry Mason" moment when he confronts Putin on the issue, a reference to a decades-old US television courtroom drama, and he predicted Putin would continue to deny the allegations.

At a press conference on Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein broadly defended the special counsel's investigation, arguing that "partisan warfare fueled by the Internet does not reflect the grace, dignity, and unity of the American people".

As FRONTLINE recounted in the Fall 2017 documentary Putin's Revenge, Trump frequently praised the Russian leader on the campaign trail.

The indictment lays out a sweeping effort starting in March 2016 to break into key Democratic email accounts, such as those belonging to the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in the US elections", Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Friday.

When asked how that conversation might go, Trump said, "He may deny it".

"We want there to be a possibility that these talks create an atmosphere that would allow us to discuss future contacts and, in particular, normal contacts in the form of visits to our respective countries".

Kennedy said he warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Congress will "double down on sanctions...if you screw with the elections this fall". "I'm going to show everybody,"' Mankoff said of Trump's viewpoint. But he predicted Putin wouldn't confess. Trump said he will raise the issue of election meddling again in his July 16 meeting with Putin. He added, "There won't be a Perry Mason here, I don't think, but you never know what happens, right?"

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Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, whose Black Sea nation also feels vulnerable with Russia's resurgence, said he saw "no danger" of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation breaking up.

Even before Friday's jaw-dropping indictments against 12 of Putin's operatives, the Mueller investigation into the Russian cyberattack on our elections had already produced 79 criminal charges against 20 people and three companies, five guilty pleas and one person sentenced thus far. He's representing Russian Federation. I'm representing the United States.

"If the president leaves the Putin meeting without ironclad assurances and concrete steps toward a full cessation of Russian attacks on our democracy, this meeting will not only be a failure - it will be a grave step backward for the future of the worldwide order", they said.

"It's one of those things".

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Friday that Trump shouldn't meet alone with Putin, adding that he's "afraid the president could be take advantage of" due to his lack of preparation.

Trump pointed to the texts to label the ongoing investigation a "rigged witch hunt", and said the probe "really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russian Federation". In the space of eight hours, Trump had moved from doubting the utility of the mutual defence alliance and provoking an extraordinary emergency session of its members to declaring the pact stronger than ever.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stopped short of calling for a cancellation.

"Failure to stand up to Putin would constitute a profound betrayal of the Constitution and our democracy", Pelosi said in a statement.