President Trump had a closed-door meeting on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. Before the two leaders met privately with their senior aides, they sat together in front of journalists for a photo opportunity. One of the reporters asked Mr. Trump if he would press the Russian leader to ensure his country does not interfere again in the U.S. democratic process.
“Of course I will,” said Mr. Trump with a smirk, before pointing in Putin’s direction and saying, “don’t interfere in the election.” It was unclear whether Mr. Trump followed his sardonic response in front of the cameras with a more serious warning to the Russian leader behind closed doors. The White House did not respond to an inquiry about whether the president’s warning was sincere. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government carried out an orchestrated campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Mr. Trump acknowledged that interference, but rejected the intel communities’ findings that the Russians “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” and tried to help him. Ex-intel chief says Russia will “almost certainly” meddle in 2020In a May tweet, the president appeared to acknowledge “Russia helping me get elected,” before walking back the statement later in the day.Before the question on election meddling, the president lauded his “very, very good” relationship with Putin and said a lot of “positive things” were going to come from it.
Shortly before the leaders spoke to reports – and before the U.S. pool was brought in – Mr. Trump referred to the press contingent as “fake news,” and congratulated himself for promoting the term.”I think there might be some media out there. What do you think?” Mr. Trump was seen saying to state TV reporters before the U.S. reporters were admitted. “Fake news,” Mr. Trump said as the pool entered. “Great term, isn’t it? You don’t have that. We have it. You don’t have it,” he said.”Yes, we have it too,” Putin appeared to reply in English. “Same.”Putin later referred to the meeting as a “great opportunity to follow up on Helsinki” — the July 2018 Trump-Putin summit during which the U.S. president appeared to accept Putin’s insistence that Russia had not interfered in U.S. politics. The Friday meeting was the first formal one between Mr. Trump and Putin since Helsinki.Other issues to discussThe meeting lasted about an hour, and came amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which has been backed by Moscow in the standoff.In the room with the two presidents were various Russian and U.S. officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.