Trump, Putin in undisclosed meet
WASHINGTON: After his much-publicised 2¼-hour meeting early this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Germany, President Donald Trump chatted informally with the Russian leader for up to an additional hour later the same day.
The second meeting, undisclosed at the time, took place at a dinner for G20 leaders, a senior administration official said. At some point during the meal, Trump left his seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Trump approached alone, and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter.
In a statement issued on Tuesday night after published reports of the conversation, the White House said: “There was no ‘second meeting’ between Trump and Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner. The insinuation the White House tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting,” it said, “is false, malicious and absurd”.
“All the leaders” circulated around the room throughout the dinner, and “Trump spoke with many leaders”. As the dinner was concluding, it said, Trump spoke “briefly” to Putin, who was seated next to first lady Melania Trump.
The dinner conversation with Putin was first reported on Monday by Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group, in a newsletter to group clients. Bremmer said the meeting began “halfway into” the meal and lasted “roughly an hour”. The senior official said it began with the dessert course.
According to reporters, the motorcades of Trump and Putin were among the last to leave the event, departing within minutes of each other just before midnight.
The encounter appeared to underscore the extent to which Trump was eager throughout the summit to cultivate a friendship with Putin. During last year’s campaign, he spoke admiringly of the Russian leader and seemed captivated by him.
Meeting face-to-face for the first time at the Hamburg summit, the two seemed to have a chemistry in their more formal bilateral session, evidenced by the fact that, despite being scheduled for 35 minutes, it continued for more than two hours. But Trump’s newly revealed conversation with Putin at the G20 dinner is likely to stoke criticism, including from fellow Republicans in Congress, that he is too cosy with the leader of a major US adversary.
Putin’s aide provided the only Russian-English interpretation, the White House statement said, because the president was seated next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife. “Each couple was allowed one translator. The American translator accompanying Trump spoke Japanese.”
The only version of the conversation provided to White House aides was given by Trump himself. Reporters were not informed during the trip, and there was no formal readout of the chat. Washington Post