President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met face-to-face Friday for the first time, with several topics like Syria and North Korea purportedly up for discussion.
But after the two-hour meeting, two key people in the room for the Trump-Putin talk gave differing accounts of what happened when one particular issue — Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election — came up.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Mr. Trump opened the meeting by addressing concerns over Russian meddling in the 2016 election, adding that Trump “pressed” Putin on the issue “on more than one occasion” during the conversation.
U.S. intelligence agencies have blamed Russia for meddling in the election last year in an effort to tilt the race in Trump’s favor.
According to Tillerson, who spoke to reporters in an off-camera briefing after the meeting, Putin denied that Russia had interfered in the election when Trump brought it up.
Tillerson added that the two presidents then agreed to move forward and focus on advancing the relationship between the United States and Russia, “because it’s not clear to me that we will ever come to some agreed-upon resolution” on the 2016 race.
One problem? Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a different takeaway.
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first face-to-face meeting since Mr. Trump took office on Friday during the G20 summit, discussing Syria and North Korea, as well as Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Judy Woodruff learns more from special correspondent Ryan Chilcote.
Lavrov told reporters after the meeting that Trump had actually accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 election.
“President Trump said he’s heard Putin’s very clear statements that this is not true and that the Russian government didn’t interfere in the elections and that he accepts these statements. That’s all,” Lavrov is quoted as saying, according to CNN.
The White House, however, denied Lavrov’s claim that Trump had accepted Putin’s denial, an administrative official told the NewsHour.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, strongly decried Russian involvement in addressing concerns about interference, saying, “the establishment of a working group as reported by Foreign Minister Lavrov to study how to curb cyber interference in elections in which the Russians would play any role, would be akin to inviting the North Koreans to participate in a commission on nonproliferation — it tacitly adopts the fiction that the Russians are a constructive partner on the subject instead of the worst actor on the world stage.”