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In Japan, President Trump warned Russian President Vladimir Putin and his staff not to meddle in the 2020 election, but he did so with a grin. Although G-20 summits have historically been calm conferences, President Trump has made them less predictable. He will finish his trip to Osaka with a pivotal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Nick Schifrin reports.
President Trump has stirred up a new storm over Russia's interference in U.S. elections. It happened today when he met with Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the multination G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin has our report.
President Donald Trump:
Thank you very much, everybody. It's a great honor to be with President Putin.
The tone was playful. The agenda was set. But then an American reporter asked if President Trump would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin not to repeat its 2016 hacking and disinformation campaign.
Mr. President, will you tell Russia not to meddle in the 2020 election?
Yes, of course I will.
Don't — don't meddle in the election, please.
If you couldn't hear that, President Trump first told Putin as an aside, "Don't meddle in the election, please," and then pointed to Putin's staff and repeated the phrase.
The warnings are delivered with a grin, a contrast to the stone face that British Prime Minister Theresa May maintained in her greeting with Putin.
In response to questions about President Trump's tone, a senior administration official described efforts to improve local election infrastructure, enhance voter registration and ballot counting, and recognize foreign adversaries' manipulation of social media — quote — "From the beginning of his administration, President Trump has taken action to defend our election system from meddling and interference."
G20s are supposed to be calm conferences, but President Trump has made them less predictable. Before he left, he called into FOX Business to disparage the nearly 70-year-old treaty that pledges the U.S. to defend ally and G20 host Japan.
If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War III. We will go in and we will protect them and we will fight with our lives and with our treasure. We will fight at all costs, right?
But if we're attacked, Japan doesn't have to help us at all. They can watch it on a Sony television.
President Trump's aides say he's personally offended by allies' reliance on the U.S. military, while those allies run trade surpluses. But, today, the president's tone on trade and U.S. partners turned positive with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
She's a fantastic person, a fantastic woman, and I'm glad to have her as a friend.
Also more friendly at this G20, the reception for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Last November, after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate, he stood isolated. Today, a quick handshake and pride of place next to the American president.
But the G20's main event will be Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting with President Trump. The two will meet in a few hours to discuss the year-long trade war and the effective U.S. ban on Chinese telecom giant Huawei. During the class photo, Xi, on the far left, went out of his way to shake President Trump's hand.
It's not clear whether either leader will make a similar effort to end their countries' disputes.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
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