Trump flashes a grin, tells Putin not to meddle in US election during first post-Mueller report meeting

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE on Friday met with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' Highly irregular: Rudy, the president, and a venture in Ukraine Biden responds to North Korea: 'I wear their insults as a badge of honor' MORE at the Group of 20 summit in Japan, where he gave a perfunctory warning about election meddling.

As journalists shouted questions asking if Trump would tell Russia not to meddle in U.S. elections, the president delivered a deadpan response.

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"Yes, of course, I will. Don’t meddle in the election, please. Don't meddle in the election,” Trump said, pointing to Putin and flashing a grin.

Putin appeared to chuckle in response.

Trump told reporters that the two leaders would discuss trade, disarmament and "a lot of different things."

 

A White House readout after the roughly 90-minute meeting made no mention of election interference. It said the two leaders discussed improving U.S.-Russia relations, arms control, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran and Syria.

Friday's meeting was the first time Trump and Putin met face-to-face since former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE finished his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The two held a phone call after the report's release, where Trump said at the time they discussed "the Russian hoax."

The special counsel's report, released in April, outlined in extensive detail how Russia engaged in a systematic effort to interfere in the 2016 election and aid Trump's candidacy. Investigators did not establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, which is the area of the report the president has focused on in the weeks since its redacted copy was released publicly.

The president previously got into hot water during a summit with Putin last year in Helsinki, when he pointed to the Russian leader's denials of any involvement in election interference and undercut the U.S. intelligence community.

Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, bemoaned Trump's behavior in Friday's meeting.

"Trump laughed off election interference and doesn’t bother to raise Putin’s belligerent , illegal behavior against Ukrainian sailors," McFaul tweeted. "Disappointing but no longer shocking. Trump consistently appeases Putin at expense of US national security interests."

 

A senior administration official said before Trump departed for Japan that there was no formal agenda for the summit between the two leaders, but possible topics included Iran, Ukraine, Syria and arms control.

In an interview this week with the Financial Times, Putin dismissed Mueller's findings, calling it "strange" that Russia was still being accused of interference. He also offered praise for Trump while opining that "the liberal idea has become obsolete."

Trump was joined at Friday's meeting by Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFive takeaways from ex-ambassador's dramatic testimony Pompeo: No US response ruled out in Hong Kong Ousted ambassador describes State Department in 'crisis' in dramatic impeachment testimony MORE, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump to tour Apple factory with Tim Cook on Wednesday The Hill's Morning Report — Public impeachment drama resumes today On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE, national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOfficial testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump Highly irregular: Rudy, the president, and a venture in Ukraine MORE, national security aide Fiona Hill, acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyNew witness claims firsthand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes Trump files to dismiss lawsuit from Bolton aide on impeachment testimony OMB official to testify in impeachment probe if subpoenaed after others refused MORE and senior advisers Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump to tour Apple factory with Tim Cook on Wednesday Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family Trump admin preparing to seize private land for border wall: report MORE and Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump to tour Apple factory with Tim Cook on Wednesday Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family On The Money: Appeals court clears way for Congress to seek Trump financial records | Fed chief urges Congress to boost US workforce | Federal deficit hits 4 billion in one month | China talks hit snag over agricultural purchases MORE

Updated at 8:34 a.m.