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Trump Presses Putin on Russian Meddling in U.S. Election

12:10, Sunday, 09 July, 2017
Trump Presses Putin on Russian Meddling in U.S. Election

President Trump pressed Vladimir V. Putin on Russia’s interference in the 2016 United States election but did not dwell on the subject. Their encounter lasted two hours and 15 minutes, far longer than expected.

• Mr. Trump’s decision to raise the issue — at the start of their long-anticipated meeting — was a big shift. Only a day earlier, Mr. Trump expressed his doubts about the extent of Russian meddling.

• Much of the time was spent on Syria. The meeting went on so long that Melania Trump, the first lady, checked in to get Mr. Trump back on his schedule. It didn’t work; the meeting continued for another hour.

• Mr. Putin denied interfering in the election, and he asked for evidence. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said the disagreement might be “intractable,” but that the two countries should try to “move forward.”

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     • The larger gathering of the G-20 leading economies will focus on high-profile issues like climate change, global trade, North Korea, Syria and Ukraine.

• Tens of thousands of protesters turned out in the host city, after a demonstration Thursday night, called “Welcome to Hell,” turned violent. Both the police and demonstrators reported injuries, and cars were set on fire.

Trump raised election interference.

In a major shift, Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Putin on his country’s meddling in the 2016 election, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson told reporters after a long meeting between the two leaders on Friday.

But his Russian counterpart spun the exchange differently — claiming that the president “accepts” Mr. Putin’s oft-repeated denials that he had anything to do with attempting to swing the 2016 election to Mr. Trump.

“He began by raising the concern of the American people of Russian interference in the 2016 election,” Mr. Tillerson, who was present at the meeting, said of Mr. Trump. “He pressed him more than once.”

Speaking separately to Russian reporters in Hamburg, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei V. Lavrov, cast Mr. Trump in a more forgiving light.

“President Trump said that this campaign has already taken on a rather strange character, because over the many months that these accusations have been made, not a single fact has been presented,” Mr. Lavrov said. “President Trump said that he had heard the clear statements from President Putin about this being untrue, that the Russian leadership did not interfere in the election, and that he accepts these statements.”

Mr. Lavrov, a veteran diplomatic infighter, added one more detail: Mr. Trump, he said, had conceded “that certain circles in the U.S. are still exaggerating, although they cannot prove this, the topic of Russia’s interference with the U.S. election.”

An email to a spokesman for Mr. Trump wasn’t immediately returned.

As recently as Thursday, Mr. Trump – who has vehemently denied that Moscow played any role in his victory — conceded that Russia might have had some hand in trying to sway the election, but he also left open the possibility that other countries had taken similar actions.

Mr. Tillerson said that after Mr. Putin asked for evidence of Russian meddling, Mr. Trump moved on to other topics, notably Syria. Mr. Trump, he said, was more concerned with the future than the past.

American officials would continue to discuss a “framework” for an agreement with Mr. Putin to forswear such actions in the future, he added.

Mr. Tillerson was less than sanguine about the prospects of ever getting Russia to admit meddling. “It may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point,” he said.

— Glenn Thrush and Neil MacFarquhar

They met for longer than expected.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin met for so long that not even Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, could get between them.

A lengthy back and forth on Syria took up much of the time, Mr. Tillerson said.

At one point, after an hour of talk, the first lady stuck her head through the door to announce that Mr. Trump needed to wrap the meeting up because of his other scheduling demands. Her interruption was not heeded.“They sent in the first lady one time to see if we can get them out of there,” Mr. Tillerson recalled. “We went another hour after she came to get us, so I guess she failed.” — Glenn Thrush

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