President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a second and previously undisclosed meeting during the G-20 summit.
A senior official told The Washington Post that Trump left his seat during a dinner for G-20 officials and approached Putin, who was only joined by his interpreter. Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, first reported this news on Monday in a newsletter which described how the meeting occurred roughly halfway during the meal and lasted for approximately one hour.
This story has been seemingly confirmed by pool reporters who noted that the Trump motorcade and Putin motorcade left at roughly the same time and were among the last to depart from the event.
Trump has, not surprisingly, taken to Twitter to deny these stories.
As The Washington Post pointed out:
But the president distorted what news outlets, including The Washington Post, had reported, saying the story was about a “secret dinner” when in fact it was reported as an undisclosed meeting with Putin at a dinner of the G-20 leaders and their spouses. Trump also incorrectly stated that journalists knew about his meeting with Putin; in fact, they did not until Tuesday, when the White House confirmed that the two presidents met during the dinner.
Although the White House has attempted to make Trump's decision to talk to Putin seem routine, The New York Times reported that "the dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies."
As Bremmer told the Times, "Pretty much everyone at the dinner thought this was really weird, that here is the president of the United States, who clearly wants to display that he has a better relationship personally with President Putin than any of us, or simply doesn’t care. They were flummoxed, they were confused and they were startled."
The Times also quoted experts who say that the meeting was concerning because its length suggests important matters were discussed and no one representing America was there to interpret, take notes or offer an American perspective on foreign policy matters.
"If I was in the Kremlin, my recommendation to Putin would be, ‘See if you can get this guy alone,’ and that’s what it sounds like he was able to do," said former ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer.