POLITICS

Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin Meet At G-20 Summit

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were also present.

07/07/2017 7:49 PM IST | Updated 08/07/2017 3:11 AM IST
SAUL LOEB via Getty Images

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Friday at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, marking the first face-to-face meeting between the two heads of state. 

Trump said that he and Putin discussed “various things” during their hours-long sit-down, originally only scheduled for 30 minutes. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also attended the meeting along with two translators.

 
SAUL LOEB via Getty Images

The lengthy discussion was on par with Putin’s long first sit-downs with the past two U.S. presidents.

The meeting was so long, Tillerson said Trump’s wife, Melania, was sent in to encourage them to conclude the conversation. They continued to talk for almost another hour after she made her appearance.

Tillerson said the two discussed Russian interference in the U.S. election, and that Putin denied any involvement while asking the U.S. for evidence that hacking had taken place. Russian state media reports Putin and Trump also discussed Syria, Ukraine, counterterrorism and cybersecurity, according to CNN’s Jim Acosta.

Tillerson said he thought it was “positive” that “there was not a lot of relitigating of the past” during the meeting.

“I think both of the leaders feel like there’s a lot of things in the past that both of us are unhappy about,” Tillerson told reporters after the meeting. “The perspective of both of them is, this is a really important relationship.”

“I think it’s going very well,” Trump told reporters, telling Putin that, “it’s an honor to be with you.”

“We spoke over the phone with you several times, but phone conversations are never enough,” Putin said, through a translator. “I’m delighted to be able to meet you personally.”

Trump previously met with Lavrov, as well as Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at the White House in May, and the president has spoken to Putin on the phone several times since his inauguration in January.  

The meeting comes amid investigations into whether Trump’s campaign team actively colluded with Russian officials to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential race. (Trump and his team deny any such collusion.) U.S. intelligence agencies have already determined that Russia did interfere in the election, and that Putin was directly involved in those efforts. 

Despite this, Trump has repeatedly downplayed Russia’s actions, and on Thursday declined to say if he’d broach the subject during his meeting with Putin.

“Nobody really knows for sure,” Trump said of whether Russia was guilty of intervening in the race. 

Asked about Trump’s comments, a Kremlin spokesman touted that the president had stressed “the possibility that it could have been other countries.”

The FBI is investigating key figures in Trump’s orbit, including the president’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn was fired from his post in the administration after it was revealed he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak, and later lied about doing so. 

Other Trump associates under FBI scrutiny include former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former political adviser Roger Stone, former foreign policy adviser Carter Page and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (who is now a senior White House adviser). 

While Trump has previously referenced past meetings with Putin, he said in July 2016 he has never met the Russian leader.  

“I never met Putin,” he said during a news conference. “I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.”

This article has been updated with more detail from the meeting.

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