On Tuesday, the White House officially confirmed that President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had an informal, second talk, in addition to their official meeting at the Group of 20 (G-20) conference in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Putin and Trump spoke at the G-20 heads of state dinner, only a few hours after their official meeting.
Reports have surfaced that in their second meeting, Trump and Putin spoke for about an hour, accompanied only by the Russian president’s translator. The second meeting between the two leaders had not been previously reported by the White House.
While the White House confirmed that President Trump and President Putin talked at the dinner for G-20 leaders, an official from the White House seemed to parry claims that the meeting lasted for an hour, instead claiming that the two leaders spoke “briefly” towards the end of the dinner.
“There was no ‘second meeting’ between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner,” the official said. “The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd.”
According to the White House, the two leaders used Putin’s Russian translator since Trump’s translator could only speak Japanese.
A pool report from the dinner venue shows that Trump arrived at the dinner a little after 7 PM local time, and left the venue just a few minutes before midnight; even though the official G-20 schedule suggests the dinner was scheduled for 8:30 PM to 10 PM.
With the ongoing investigations, by both federal authorities and congressional committees, into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Moscow, Trump’s interaction with the Russian president have become the subject of intense scrutiny at home in the US, with the media also making it the center of attention.
However, the official from the White House reinstated the fact that it is the president’s job to talk to world leaders.
“It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president’s duties, to interact with world leaders. Throughout the G-20 and in all his other foreign engagements, President Trump has demonstrated American leadership by representing our interests and values on the world stage,” the official said.
Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, believes Trump breached national security by not allowing his translator to join his second, informal meeting with the Russian president. However, it is more than likely that Trump did not have knowledge of the national security protocol.
The formal meeting between Trump and Putin at the G-20 summit was officially scheduled to last for 30 minutes, but went on for over two hours; another thing that is bothering the mainstream media and critics back home.
Talking to Bloomberg’s Charlie Rose, Bremmer said that the understanding Trump established with Putin at the summit is “clearly his best personal relationship” with any G-20 leader.
“Never in my life as a political scientist have I seen two countries — major countries — with a constellation of national interests that are as dissonant, while the two leaders seem to be doing everything possible to make nice and be close to each other,” he said.
Reports indicate that President Trump, during the formal meeting, brought up the topic of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential elections; however, Russian President Putin denied those claims.