Administration

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

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President Trump on Friday met with Russian President Vladimir Putin 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.

{mosads}”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 Mueller 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 Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, national security adviser John Bolton, national security aide Fiona Hill, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. 

Updated at 8:34 a.m.

Tags 2020 election Donald Trump election meddling Ivanka Trump Jared Kushner John Bolton Mick Mulvaney Mike Pompeo Mueller investigation Mueller report Robert Mueller Russia Russian interference Steven Mnuchin Vladimir Putin

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