President Donald Trump said that his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, and which lasted for more than two hours on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, was “tremendous.”
“I had a tremendous meeting yesterday with President Putin,” Trump said while speaking with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday; the US president did not give further details regarding his meeting with Putin.
The leaders had “positive chemistry” and “connected quickly,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after the meeting on Friday. The leaders discussed many topics, including Ukraine, Syria, and cybersecurity and fighting terrorism, according to Putin; after the meeting US and Russian officials announced a ceasefire agreement in southwest Syria, set to take effect on July 9, and applies to the southern Daraa, Quneitra, and As-Suwayda provinces.
Although the highly-anticipated meeting on Friday lasted more than two hours - 90 minutes longer than it was scheduled - details about what the two world leaders discussed have been scant. Accounts shared by Russian and U.S. officials significantly differ.
Tillerson said Trump repeatedly pressed Putin regarding possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. “The two leaders agreed that this is a substantial hindrance on the ability of us to move Russian-U.S. relationships forward and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries,” Tillerson said.
On the other hand, in his post-conference briefing, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov implied the topic was brief and not contentious.
"U.S. President Trump said that he heard firm assertions from Russian President Putin that it is not true and that Russian authorities have not meddled in the elections," Lavrov said. “[Trump] said that he accepts these assertions. That's it.”
As The Hill reports, Trump’s critics including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed Trump following the meeting for taking a weak position with Putin by giving him the benefit of the doubt on Russian hacking. Putin has denied the Kremlin was involved in election interference.
“To give equal credence to the findings of the American Intelligence Community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future,” Schumer blasted.
In retrospect, Putin may have shut down Schumer and much of the press with its endless tales of Russian intrigue and innuendo when, according to Tillerson, Putin demanded "proof or evidence" of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Nearly one year later, none has been presented much to the chagrin of countless WaPo and NYT "anonymous sources".