'Trump had undisclosed hour-long meeting with Putin at G-20 Summit'
After his much-publicized two-and-a-quarter-hour meeting early this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 Summit in Germany, President 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 G-20 leaders, a senior 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 on Tuesday night after published reports of the conversation, the White House said that "there was no 'second meeting' between President Trump and President 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 first lady Melania Trump. The dinner conversation with Putin was first reported 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 administration 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.
Trump lashed out at the media for reporting on his undisclosed meeting with Putin, saying the "fake news" was "sick" and "dishonest."
But the president distorted what news outlets, including The Washington Post, had reported, saying the story was about a "secret dinner" when in fact it was reported as an undisclosed meeting with Putin at a dinner of the G-20 leaders and their spouses. Trump also incorrectly stated that journalists knew about his meeting with Putin; in fact, they did not until Tuesday, when the White House confirmed that the two presidents met during the dinner.
In the first of two tweets, Trump wrote: "Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is 'sick.' All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!"
Trump then tweeted, "The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!" The dinner 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.
Meeting each other face-to-face for the first time at the Hamburg Summit, the two presidents 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 G-20 dinner is likely to stoke criticism — including perhaps from some fellow Republicans in Congress — that he is too cozy with the leader of a major US adversary.
Putin's official interpreter 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. Reporters traveling with the White House were not informed during the trip, and there was no formal readout of the chat.
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 election. That meeting was attended by the leaders and their two interpreters, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Tillerson later said Trump twice asked Putin if the conclusions of the US intelligence community that Russia had meddled in the race were true, and Putin twice denied it, so they moved on to other subjects of importance to the bilateral relationship, including Syria.
Russia's activities during the election, along with allegations that members of Trump's campaign may have coordinated with Kremlin attempts to tilt the race in Trump's direction, are the subject of investigations in Congress and by a
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