President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first official meeting during the G-20 summit in Germany this month. Then they met again at a couples-only dinner in Hamburg that night, according to NBC News.
It was an event for G-20 leaders, and halfway through it, Trump, alone, plopped his chair next to Putin, who was only accompanied by his interpreter, the Washington Post reports.
A White House official reportedly confirmed the meeting and stressed that it was a “social” dinner. The White House did not previously disclose or document the event, and traveling American reporters were not told about the meeting.
The Trump-Putin evening meeting was first reported by political consultant Ian Bremmer, who was told about it by two witnesses at the dinner.
During the first two-hour meeting, Putin denied that his government tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Putin maintains that Trump accepted his version of the events. What Trump actually took at face value remains unclear, though he’s been criticized by his party for being too close with the Russian leader.
Trump this month tweeted that he plans to work with Putin on cybersecurity matters, but was criticized by high-profile Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for doing so. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter that “While reality & pragmatism requires that we engage Vladimir Putin, he will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner.”
Putin previously joked about fired FBI Director James Comey, offering him political asylum while mocking Comey’s assertion that Russia tried to influence the U.S. election with hacking.
This month the New York Times reported that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., held a Trump Tower meeting in 2016 with a Russian lawyer and a team of political associates. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, allegedly had compromising intelligence about his dad’s presidential race opponent, Hillary Clinton, according to emails Trump Jr. released ahead of a Times story about the communications.
H/T NBC News