- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2020

President Trump is open to meeting Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro, Mr. Trump said in an interview published Sunday.

The new willingness is a sign that the Trump administration may be losing confidence in opposition leader Juan Guaido despite more than a year of unwavering support for the young interim president and applying a “maximum pressure campaign” to force Mr. Maduro out of power.

“I would maybe think about that. … Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings,” the president said in an exclusive interview with Axios, an online news outlet.

“I always say, you lose very little with meetings. But at this moment, I’ve turned them down,” the president continued.

Mr. Guaido visited the White House earlier this year, where Mr. Trump vowed tougher U.S. sanctions aimed at forcing Mr. Maduro from office.

The U.S. and nearly 60 other nations recognize Mr. Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, contending that Mr. Maduro’s reelection in 2018 was illegitimate.

Mr. Trump told the news outlet that he wasn’t particularly thrilled about his administration’s decision — led by former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton — to fully back Mr. Guaido after he claimed victory.

“Guaidó was elected,” the president said. “I think that I wasn’t necessarily in favor, but I said — some people that liked it, some people didn’t. I was OK with it. I don’t think it was — you know, I don’t think it was very meaningful one way or the other.”

According to Mr. Bolton’s forthcoming book, which has received swift backlash from Mr. Trump and top White House advisers, the president once compared Mr. Guaido to a “kid” and described him as the “Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela.”

Mr. Bolton also claimed that the president suggested it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela amid an ongoing humanitarian and political crisis, and said the country was “really part of the United States.”

Mr. Trump on Monday confirmed in a tweet that he would be open to meeting with Mr. Maduro but to only discuss a “peaceful exit from power!”

“Unlike the radical left, I will ALWAYS stand against socialism and with the people of Venezuela. My Admin has always stood on the side of FREEDOM and LIBERTY and against the oppressive Maduro regime!” he tweeted.

On Friday, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Mexico-based individuals and targeted a crude oil supply line that has been run by a close associate of the socialist leader. The individuals have since been blocked from doing business with U.S. companies or citizens.

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