Despite the better judgment of some of his top aides, President Donald Trump is apparently eagerly trying to set up a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at an upcoming diplomatic summit in Germany.
According to the Associated Press, several advisers of Trump are trying to get him to scale back his efforts to conduct a full bilateral meeting with the Russian president at the G20 international meeting in Hamburg, Germany. These advisers believe that even appearing to be too friendly to Russia is particularly inadvisable for Trump given that country's interference in the 2016 presidential election through hacking and propaganda.
Trump has further complicated matters by presenting multiple conflicting public statements about Russia's efforts related to American politics. On June 22 the president said that the entire story was "a big Dem HOAX."
And Trump has also said that claims that Russia interfered on his behalf were nothing more than Democrats' contrived excuses to explain away their failure to defeat him.
Just two days after his "hoax" tweet, the president then tried to blame the former Barack Obama administration for not taking action against Russia when it could have:
According to the AP, several advisers of the president have tried to get him to engage in just a private "pull-aside" meeting alongside regular G20 events, something that officials of the U.S. and other countries frequently do at such conferences. Other advisers have urged meetings between high-level diplomats of both nations that would not include the two presidents.
Putin was one of five world leaders with whom Trump spoke on his first day as president, the White House said in January.
In May the president caused an international incident by revealing to top Russian diplomats classified anti-terrorism information that had been provided to the United States by Israel. Almost immediately thereafter, he inadvertently disclosed that the source of the intelligence was Israel.
The White House took a PR hit less than a week later when it was revealed that the president had characterized his firing of FBI Director James Comey as removing a "great pressure" from his administration. Trump also reportedly called Comey a "nut job." No administration officials has ever have challenged those claims.
The president met with the ambassador just one day after he had fired Comey.
Asked about the AP report related to internal White House discussions about the mechanics of a U.S.-Russia meeting, a Putin spokesman confirmed that the two leaders would meet but that the details had not been worked out yet.