Trump had second chat with Putin
UNITED STATES: After US President Donald Trump’s muchpublicised 21⁄4-hour meeting earlier this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Germany, the pair chatted informally for up to an additional hour later the same day, it has been revealed.
The second meeting, undisclosed at the time, took place at a dinner for G20 leaders, a senior Trump administration official said.
At some point during the meal, Trump left his own seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Trump approached alone, and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter.
In a statement issued yesterday 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 that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting,’’ it said, ‘‘is false, malicious and absurd.’’
‘‘All the leaders’’ circulated around the room throughout the dinner, and ‘‘President Trump spoke with many leaders’’, the statement said. ‘‘As the dinner was concluding,’’ it said, Trump spoke ‘‘briefly’’ with Putin, who was seated next to US First Lady Melania Trump.
The dinner conversation with Putin was first reported on Tuesday by Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group, in a newsletter to group clients. Bremmer said the meeting began ‘‘halfway in’’ to the meal and lasted ‘‘roughly an hour’’. The senior official said it began with the dessert course, but did not comment on its length.
Pool reporters covering Trump noted that his and Putin’s motorcades 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 election campaign, he spoke admiringly of the Russian leader and at times seemed captivated by him.
Trump’s newly revealed conversation with Putin at the G20 dinner is likely to stoke criticism, including perhaps from some 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 the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. ‘‘Each couple was allowed one translator,’’ it said. ‘‘The American translator accompanying President Trump spoke Japanese.’’
The only version of the conversation provided to White House aides was that given by Trump himself, said the administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, before the White House statement was issued.
The official Trump-Putin meeting, earlier in the day, led to confusion over whether Trump agreed, as Putin later implied, to accept the Kremlin’s denial of any wrongdoing regarding interference in last year’s presidential election.
Leaders who witnessed the dinner meeting were ‘‘bemused, nonplussed, befuddled’’ by the animated conversation, held in full view – but apparently not within listening distance – of others present, Bremmer said. He said he had spoken with two participants at the dinner.
One senior European official whose head of government was there played down the attention the Trump-Putin chat garnered, saying it was not unusual for leaders to circulate or ‘‘withdraw to a corner’’ at such private gatherings. – Washington Post