After his much-publicized, two-and a quarter-hour meeting early this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Germany, President Trump met informally with the Russian leader for an additional hour later the same day.
The second meeting, unreported at the time, took place at a dinner for G20 leaders, a senior administration official said. Halfway through the meal, Trump left his own seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Trump was alone, and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter.
The encounter underscores the extent to which Trump was eager throughout the summit to cultivate a friendship with Putin. During last year’s campaign, Trump spoke admiringly of Putin and at times seemed captivated by him.
Meeting each other face-to-face for the first time in Hamburg, the two presidents seemed to have a chemistry in their more formal bilateral session, evidenced by the fact that it lasted for two hours.
But Trump’s newly disclosed conversation with Putin at the G20 dinner is likely to stoke further criticism, including perhaps from some fellow Republicans in Congress, that he is too cozy with the leader of a major US adversary.
The only version of the conversation provided to White House aides was that given by Trump himself, the official said. Reporters traveling with the White House were not informed, and there was no formal readout of the chat.
The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm the session, first reported Monday by Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group, in a newsletter to clients. Bremmer said in a telephone interview that he was told by two participants who witnessed it at the dinner, which was attended only by leaders attending the summit and some spouses.
Leaders who reported the meeting to him, Bremmer said, were ‘‘bemused, nonplussed, befuddled’’ by the animated conversation, held in full view — but not listening distance — of others present.
Putin’s aide provided the only Russian-English interpretation, the official said, because Trump’s designated dinner companion for the evening was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the president has brought only a Japanese-English interpreter.
The formal Putin-Trump meeting earlier in the day was attended only by the leaders and interpreters, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Scheduled for only 35 minutes, it ran well over the time scheduled for it.
But following official statements on what transpired, there was widespread confusion over whether Trump agreed, as Putin said, to accept the Kremlin’s denial of any wrongdoing regarding interference in last year’s election. Trump said he twice asked Putin if the conclusions of the US intelligence community that Russia had meddled were true, and Putin twice denied it, so he moved on to other subjects of importance to the bilateral relationship, including Syria.
Trump to nominate Huntsman as Russian envoy
WASHINGTON — President Trump announced his intention Tuesday to nominate former Utah governor Jon Huntsman to be US ambassador to Russia.
If confirmed, the former 2012 GOP presidential candidate would take over a high-profile post amid ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.
Huntsman has twice served as an ambassador. He was the nation’s top diplomat to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and then served in that role in China under President Obama before returning to the United States to run for president.
Huntsman was also briefly under consideration to be Trump’s secretary of state.
The White House made the announcement shortly after it confirmed that Trump had a previously undisclosed conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner at the G-20 summit this month.
The former governor, a Mormon, had an up-and-down relationship with Trump during last year’s campaign. He was slow to endorse any candidate for the Republican nomination though he did back Trump once he became the presumptive nominee. But Huntsman then called for Trump to drop out after the October release of a 2005 video in which Trump was captured on a hot microphone making lewd comments about women.
Clinton, Romney officialsjoin on election project
The former managers of Hillary Clinton’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns are leading an initiative called ‘‘Defending Digital Democracy’’ in the hopes of preventing a repeat of Russia’s 2016 election interference.
Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign chief, and Matt Rhoades, who managed the 2012 run of GOP nominee Romney, are heading up the project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in one of the first major efforts outside government to grapple with 21st-century hacking and propaganda operations — and ways to deter them.
The bipartisan project aims to develop ways to share key threat information with political campaigns and state and local election offices and create ‘‘playbooks’’ for election officials to improve cybersecurity.