US President Donald Trump lashed out at “sick” media reports that he held a second “undisclosed” meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at a state dinner during the G20 summit in Germany, saying the press was fully aware of the high-profile event.
“Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick’. All G20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!” Trump said in an angry tweet, followed by another one saying: “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 first report about the meeting was apparently provided by Ian Bremmer, president of the global political consultancy Eurasia Group. In a newsletter to group clients, Bremmer reportedly said the meeting began “halfway” into the dinner and lasted “roughly an hour,” according to the Washington Post.
“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 told Bloomberg’s Charlie Rose.
Speaking to other outlets later on, he said there was no one else within earshot at the time, meaning that the conversation must have been private. The two leaders spoke through Putin’s interpreter, who, according to Bremmer, was the only third person to have been present during their conversation.
Bremmer’s reports made headlines both in the US and internationally, with mainstream media speculating on the content of the Trump-Putin dinner chat.
The White House eventually downplayed their importance, saying there was a brief conversation but not a fully-fledged meeting.
“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 is false, malicious and absurd,” the administration explained in a statement.
Addressing claims that the absence of the US translator might have been a breach of national security protocol, the statement said the translator who accompanied Trump spoke Japanese but had no command of Russian; that was why the two leaders used the Russian translator.
There was nothing sensational in the exchange as all leaders who gathered for the dinner “circulated throughout the room and spoke with one another freely,” the White House said.
“It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a President’s duties, to interact with world leaders.”
Trump and Putin held their first meeting on July 7 on the sidelines of G20 summit in Hamburg. The meeting, initially scheduled to last 30 minutes, went for over two hours as the presidents discussed Ukraine, Syria, as well as cybersecurity, making what Moscow called a breakthrough on Syrian peace initiatives.
Putin said the meeting has been useful to establish personal contact, adding “the Trump we see on TV is very much different from the real person.” The Kremlin’s spokesman later described the meeting as “a win-win encounter,” adding that the US president is a skillful and knowledgeable negotiator.