Trump, Putin in undis­closed meet

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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

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