Washington: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had a second encounter while at the G-20 summit in Germany earlier this month that wasn’t disclosed at the time, a White House official said Tuesday.
The US and Russian presidents had a conversation during a dinner 7 July at the summit in Hamburg after spending more than two hours in a formal bilateral meeting earlier in the day, Michael Anton, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said.
“There was a couples-only social dinner at the G-20," Anton said in response to questions. “Toward the end, the president spoke to Putin at the dinner." Such informal side encounters between leaders are common at summits, but the White House didn’t reveal the Trump-Putin conversation at the time.
A separate statement distributed by the White House press office said the conversation between Trump and Putin was brief, came toward the end of the dinner and was among many that the US president had with other leaders at the event. First lady Melania Trump was seated next to Putin and the conversation came about when Trump went over to his wife.
Such informal encounters are common at international summits and leaders occasionally use the social events to emphasize or expand on points made in formal settings. Former president Barack Obama had a similar session with Putin at the 2013 G-20 meeting in which small talk between the two leaders led to them pulling up chairs in the corner of the room for a 20-minute discussion about Syria. That conversation was disclosed at the time.
Trump lashed out late Tuesday on Twitter about reports on the second Putin encounter, declaring that he was once again the victim of “fake news."
“All G20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!" he said of the dinner. “Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!"
The encounter between Trump and Putin was first reported by the Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer in his newsletter on Monday. Bremmer, citing unidentified sources, wrote that Trump got up from his seat at the dinner and sat down next to Putin and the two spoke “animatedly" for about an hour. Bremmer said his sources told him only Putin’s translator was present for the conversation.
The White House statement said that each couple attending the dinner was only allowed one translator and that the Trumps brought with them a Japanese translator because the president was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.
During their formal meeting, Trump said he confronted Putin about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election but, by his own admission, only pressed the issue twice before moving onto other subjects. Trump later told reporters that he’d like to invite Putin to the White House when the timing is right. Bloomberg