Trump, Putin have ‘robust’ discussion on 2016 election
HAMBURG — At long last, U.S. President Donald Trump confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin directly Friday over Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, as the two leaders sought to use their historic first meeting to move past the issue and forge closer co-operation on Syria.
In Germany, Trump and Putin had a “robust and lengthy” discussion about the interference, though Putin denied involvement, said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. His Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said Trump had accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia didn’t meddle in the U.S. election — a divergent description of the conversation that illustrated each country’s effort to show its leader had held his ground.
“I think the president is rightly focused on how do we move forward from something that may be an intractable disagreement at this point,” said Tillerson.
Trump’s decision to raise the issue directly with Putin fulfilled demands by U.S. lawmakers that the president not shy away from the issue in his highly anticipated meeting with Putin. Trump has avoided stating unequivocally in the past that Russia interfered, even as investigations proceed into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who sought to help him win.
On one point, Putin and Trump agreed, Tillerson said: the issue has become a hindrance to better relations between the two powers. The two leaders agreed to continue the discussion, with an eye toward securing a commitment that Russia won’t interfere in U.S. affairs in the future, Tillerson added.
The meeting, originally scheduled for 35 minutes, clocked in at 2 hours, 16 minutes.
Putin and Trump also discussed a ceasefire deal for southwestern Syria that was reached by Russia and the United States and first reported Friday.