President Donald Trump downplayed his second, undisclosed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, saying the conversation consisted of ‘pleasantries more than anything else’.
Trump said that his second meeting with Putin lasted about 15 minutes during dinner for world leaders at the G20 summit in Germany earlier this month.
The US president acknowledged that adoptions were discussed during the meeting – the same topic his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, says he discussed with a Russian lawyer at a meeting that has drawn intense scrutiny.
Russia had banned Americans from adopting Russian children in response to the Magnitsky Act, passed by Congress in 2012, which allowed the U. S. to impose sanctions on Russians deemed as human rights violators.
‘The meal was going toward dessert,’ Trump told The New York Times. ‘I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin.
‘Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.’
Trump noted that the coincidence that he and his son both spoke about adoption was ‘interesting’.
‘I actually talked about Russian adoption with him,’ he said, referencing Putin. ‘Which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don had in that meeting.’
Trump repeated that he didn’t know of his son’s 2016 meeting, saying he didn’t need Russians to provide any information on Hillary Clinton.
‘There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying,’ he told the Times. ‘Unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.’
It was reported on Tuesday that Trump and Putin spoke during a couples dinner in the main room of the G20 summit.
The conversation came after a brief greeting at the start of the two-day summit and a two-hour bilateral meeting with their foreign ministers on July 7.
The White House confirmed the political sensitive sit-down only after it was leaked.
At the dinner in Hamburg, Trump was seated between the wife of the prime Minister of Japan the wife of the president of Argentina.
US First Lady Melania Trump was seated next to President Putin.
That raised questions about what the pair talked about, when only Trump, Putin and a Russian translator were present.
According to a US official ‘during the course of the dinner, all the leaders circulated throughout the room and spoke with one another freely.’
‘President Trump spoke with many leaders during the course of the evening. As the dinner was concluding, President Trump went over to Mrs. Trump, where he spoke briefly with President Putin.’
Sanders denied reports that the sit-down lasted an hour, describing it as ‘brief.’
‘We weren’t following him around with a stopwatch,’ but ‘certainly not an hour,’ she said.
The White House and Kremlin on Wednesday played down the significance of the additional, previously undisclosed meeting.
The two powers united in their condemnation of reports questioning why the meeting was not disclosed.
‘Once again, the Russia fever has caught up with the media and everybody ran out and tried to create a story that simply didn’t exist,’ said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
That message was echoed by her Kremlin counterpart Dmitry Peskov.
‘The use of the terms ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ for this meeting provokes absolute surprise and incomprehension.’
The meeting had been ‘officially accepted’ by diplomatic channels, he added in comments reported by the Russia’s TASS news agency.
‘There was no secret and confidential meeting,’ he said. ‘To say so is absolutely absurd.’
The Trump administration has been besieged by allegations that the president’s closest advisors colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr recently released emails showing he held a meeting during the campaign with Kremlin-connected figures, hoping to get dirt on his father’s rival for the White House, Hillary Clinton.
Trump took to Twitter to blast the suggestion that there was anything improper about his dinner chat with Putin.
‘Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick.’ All G20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!’ he declared.
‘The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!’
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