Their interactions were scrutinized closely due to the alleged meddling
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a previously undisclosed conversation during a dinner for G20 leaders at a summit earlier this month in Germany, a White House official said on Tuesday.
The two leaders held a formal two-hour bilateral meeting on July 7 in which Trump later said Putin denied allegations that he directed efforts to meddle in the US presidential election last year.
Trump’s interactions with the Russian leader were scrutinized closely because of those allegations, which have dominated his first six months in the White House, and Trump’s comments as a presidential candidate praising the Kremlin leader.
Trump and Putin first met at the G20 during a gathering of other leaders, which was shown in a video. They later held the bilateral meeting, which was attended briefly by a pool of reporters.
In the evening, both men attended a dinner with G20 leaders. Putin was seated next to US first lady Melania Trump. The US president went over to them at the conclusion of the dinner and visited with Putin, the official said. That conversation had not been previously disclosed.
“There was no ‘second meeting’ between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner. The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd,” the official said.
Late on Tuesday, Trump said: “Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is “sick”. All G20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!”
Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is “sick”. All G20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!” Donald Trump, US president
US President Trump was scheduled to nominate Jon Huntsman, an envoy to China under former president Barack Obama, as US ambassador to Russia, on Tuesday, a White House official said.
It still requires confirmation by the US Senate. If confirmed, the former 2012 GOP presidential candidate would take over a high-profile post amid ongoing investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the election last year and potential contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.
Huntsman currently serves as chairman of both the Atlantic Council, a US think tank, and the Hunts-
Lasts ‘an hour’
News of the conversation, first reported by Ian Bremmer, the president of political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, could raise renewed concern as Congress and a special counsel investigate allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered to help Trump, a Republican, win the presidency.
Trump said there was no collusion and Russia has denied interference.
Bremmer said Trump got up from his seat halfway through dinner and spent about an hour talking “privately and animatedly” with Putin, “joined only by Putin’s own translator”.
The lack of a US translator raised eyebrows among other leaders at the dinner, Bremmer said.
He called it a “breach of national security protocol”.
The White House official said the leaders and their spouses were only permitted to have one translator attend the dinner. Trump sat next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife. His trans- lator spoke Japanese.
“When Trump spoke to Putin, they used the Russian translator, since the American translator did not speak Russian,” the official said.