President Donald Trump had a second and previously undisclosed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin while both were in Germany for the G20 meeting.
The White House has confirmed that Trump and Putin spoke on July 7 at the end of a social dinner, a less formal diplomatic encounter. Trump reportedly left his seat at the table halfway through the meal and sat in an empty chair next to Putin, with Putin’s translator the only other person around.
No formal readout of the encounter was distributed by the White House, where officials said the only account of the meeting in Hamburg came from Trump himself. The issues discussed have not been disclosed, but the meeting is likely to stoke concerns over Trump’s affinity for Putin.
The meeting was first reported by Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a think tank in New York. He said the meeting was recounted to him by two people who were at the dinner.
Bremmer told the Washington Post that the leaders who told him about the Trump-Putin meeting were “bemused, non-plussed, befuddled” by the conversation that was held publicly but not within earshot of so many other leaders.
Earlier the same day, Trump and Putin had a formal bilateral meeting that lasted more than two hours — far over the scheduled 25 minutes. Only six people took part: the two presidents, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and two translators.
Trump has been criticized for his admiration for Putin, considered by many to be a U.S. adversary. The U.S. president has been dogged by allegations the Russian government worked to help him defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump denies that he or anyone in his campaign knowingly colluded with Moscow.
Trump also said he asked Putin during their formal meeting if he had interfered in the U.S. election and the Russian president denied it. Trump said he asked a second time, and Putin also denied taking part in any hacking of the U.S. election system.