Well, it was one heck of a day at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Amid twin stories of Russia both targeting nuclear facilities and increasing spying in the U.S., Presidents Trump and Putin endured one clumsy handshake and a second one while Trump claimed they were getting along so well. Then the two leaders retreated for a planned one-on-one conversation that was supposed to last 30 minutes but dragged on for a full 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Clearly, these two had plenty to discuss, Now, we’re unsurprisingly (?) hearing different versions of what happened from the two other people in the room (besides interpreters), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the same Russian diplomat who Trump gamely leaked classified information to in the Oval Office. The main issue of disagreement revolves around Russian election interference, which Putin has consistently (and strenuously) denied, and Trump has brushed off on many occasions.
First up, here’s the Tillerson special, which sounds like Trump went in like a wrecking ball while repeatedly “pressing” Putin:
“The president opened the meeting with President Putin by raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. They had a very robust and lengthy exchange on the subject. The president pressed President Putin, on more than one occasion, regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement, as i think he has in the past. The two leaders agreed though that this is a substantial hindrance and the ability to move the Russian-U.S. relationship forward and agreed to exchnage further work regarding commitments of non-interference.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press has a very different take from Lavrov:
“Russian foreign minister says Trump accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia didn’t meddle in the U.S. election.”
That sounds … about right as far as (nonexistent) expectations for a cohesive transcript are concerned, although Tillerson did acknowledge that the Russians have asked for proof of their election meddling.
In addition, the conversation appears to have ended in a confusing manner. The Wall Street Journal says that Trump aides sent the First Lady to interrupt and end the meeting. However, Melania’s spokesperson made it clear that she was stuck in a hotel due to protests for much of the day, so yeah, this whole press-absent meeting sounds like a giant Mad Libs book. And to tie things up in an appropriately messy manner, Russian state media outlet RT reports that Trump thanked Putin in Russian, which is just fancy.