With all the liberal hype about Trump and Putin, it’s hard to believe the two world leaders have never met in person. That changed today, when President Trump met face-to-face with his Russian counterpart at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Before the meeting, Trump promised to “represent our country well and fight for its interests” even though “Fake News Media will never cover me accurately.”
The Trump-Putin meeting isn’t particularly significant in terms of policy, but it is extremely significant in terms of optics. The whole world is watching to see what will happen, and we can expect the media to analyze every word and facial expression.
“The big thing to watch will be what Putin asks for and what he offers in return and whether there’s a sense of receptivity on the president’s part,” said former Pentagon official Derek Chollet.
Details of the meeting are sketchy, Trump described it a ‘tremendous.’ Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who also attended, said Trump pressed Putin on election tampering and Putin denied any involvment. They agreed to work on a commitment of “non-interference” and to pursue agreements on cybersecurity.
According to Tillerson, “The two leaders I would say connected very quickly. There was a very clear positive chemistry between the two.” The meeting was schedule to last for 30 minutes but actually lasted for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Trump has occasionally been complimentary of President Putin, but has adopted somewhat of a harsher stance in recent months. “We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran, and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and the defense of civilization itself,” said Trump.
The White House has not set a specific agenda for the meeting, but likely topics include the fight against ISIS, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the war in Syria.
Lawmakers from both parties are urging Trump to speak with Putin about Russia’s alleged interference in the US election, including the massive DNC email hack that exposed thousands of emails belonging to former Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
According to a letter signed by several senior Democratic senators, failing to ask Putin about Russia’s alleged meddling would be a “severe dereliction” of his presidential duty.
When asked Thursday about Russia’s participation in the US election, Trump said, “I think it could very well have been Russia but I think it could well have been other countries. Nobody really knows for sure.”
The 35-minute powwow with Putin is the highlight of Trump’s four-day European tour, a trip that will also bring him face-to-face with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Turkish President Recep Tayyip, Mexican President Pena Nieto, and newly-elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be the only other people in the room when Trump and Putin sit down to talk.