Former Trump officials including Fiona Hill helped prepare Biden for Putin summit: report

Greg Nash

Officials who served under former President Trump, including Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council (NSC) official who testified in his first impeachment trial, reportedly helped President Biden prepare for his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Axios reported that the group of roughly a dozen experts who briefed Biden included Hill and a number of Obama-era officials.

Michael McFaul and John Tefft, both of whom served as Russian ambassadors under former President Obama, were also reportedly in on the discussion.

Rose Gottemoeller, an arms control expert who was deputy secretary general of NATO under Obama, and Eric Green, a career foreign service officer and the NSC’s senior director for Russia, were also present for the preparation, according to Axios.

The group agreed that Biden should adopt blunt talk when he meets with Putin, and not leave any lingering questions regarding where he stands on a number of issues, including hacking and human rights, Axios reported.

The participants also advised Biden not to hold a joint press conference with Putin after their summit, or give him any opportunity to try to draw attention from the private conversations in public.

While a number of members of the group represented different perspectives when it comes to how to handle Putin, Axios reported that there were not “outright disagreements” when it came to recommending an approach

Some participants, however, said Biden should look for opportunities to engage with Russia, including student exchanges and restoring diplomatic and consular positions, while others urged him to stick to a “get-tough message.”

Hill, Axios noted, previously said she considered “faking some kind of medical emergency and throwing myself backwards with a loud blood curdling scream into the media” when Trump was meeting with Putin in Helsinki in July 2018.

“My initial thought was just ‘How can I end this?’ ” she told the BBC in February.

At the press conference following his private conversation with Putin, Trump notably sided with the Russian president over U.S. intelligence agencies when asked about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others saying they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump told reporters.

Biden is set to meet face-to-face with Putin for the first time as president on Wednesday in Geneva, after summits with both the Group of Seven and NATO.

On Monday, Biden said Putin is “bright, he’s tough and I have found that he is a, as they say when we used to play ball, a worthy adversary.”

“I’m going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses. And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past, relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond. We will respond in kind,” Biden added.

Tags Dan Coats Donald Trump Joe Biden Vladimir Putin
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