SEC­OND TALK

re­ported be­tween Trump, Putin.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Donald Trump had a sec­ond, pre­vi­ously undis­closed, pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Russia this month, the White House ac­knowl­edged Tues­day.

The hour­long con­ver­sa­tion in Ham­burg, Ger­many, took place at a pri­vate din­ner among world lead­ers at a con­cert hall on the banks of the Elbe River dur­ing the Group of 20 eco­nomic sum­mit meet­ing, with only a Krem­lin in­ter­preter present to lis­ten to the ex­change. It fol­lowed a for­mal meet­ing be­tween the two pres­i­dents that lasted more than two hours ear­lier in the day and in­cluded their for­eign min­is­ters for a fraught discussion about Moscow’s at­tempts to in­ter­fere in the 2016 U.S. elec­tions.

In the ear­lier meet­ing, Trump ques­tioned the Rus­sian pres­i­dent about his role in the U.S. vote. Putin de­nied his in­volve­ment, and the two men agreed to move be­yond the dis­pute in the in­ter­est of find­ing com­mon ground on other mat­ters, in­clud­ing a limited cease-fire in Syria.

But the in­ti­mate din­ner con­ver­sa­tion, of which there is no of­fi­cial U.S. gov­ern­ment record, be­cause no Amer­i­can of­fi­cial other than the pres­i­dent was in­volved, is the lat­est to raise eye­brows. For­eign lead­ers who wit­nessed it later com­mented pri­vately on the oddity of an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent flaunt­ing such a close rap­port with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part.

“Pretty much ev­ery­one at the din­ner thought this was re­ally weird, that here is the pres­i­dent of the United

For­eign lead­ers who wit­nessed it later com­mented pri­vately on the oddity of an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent flaunt­ing such a close rap­port with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part.

States, who clearly wants to dis­play that he has a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship per­son­ally with Pres­i­dent Putin than any of us, or sim­ply doesn’t care,” said Ian Bremmer, pres­i­dent of the Eura­sia Group, a New York- based re­search and con­sult­ing firm, who said he heard di­rectly from at­ten­dees. “They were flum­moxed, they were con­fused, and they were star­tled.”

The en­counter oc­curred more than mid­way through the lengthy din­ner, when Trump left his seat near Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe and ap­proached Putin, who had been seated next to Trump’s wife, first lady Me­la­nia Trump.

In a state­ment, a White House of­fi­cial on Tues­day de­scribed the meet­ing as rou­tine and brief and ex­plained the lack of an Amer­i­can trans­la­tor by not­ing that the pres­i­dent was ac­com­pa­nied by a Ja­panese in­ter­preter who did not speak Rus­sian. The of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said that any in­sin­u­a­tion that the White House tried to hide the en­counter was false.

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