Trump, Putin have ‘ro­bust’ dis­cus­sion on 2016 elec­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - DAR­LENE SU­PERVILLE AND KEN THOMAS

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.

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