Tuesday 16 July 2019

Trump and Putin 'had private meeting at G20 with no aides present'

US president was accompanied only by Melania at talks at summit

U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Tom Embury-Dennis

US President Donald Trump reportedly sat down for a meeting with Vladimir Putin in November accompanied only by his wife Melania.

In a revelation likely to trigger fresh concerns about the US president's relationship with Moscow, the 'Financial Times' reported that Mr Trump met the Russian leader during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires without any of his translators or aides present.

The meeting allegedly occurred at the end of an evening event at the Colon Theatre.

As other world leaders and guests left the building, Mr Trump and Melania sat down at a table with Mr Putin and one of his translators.

According to a Russian government official quoted by the newspaper, the leaders spoke for around 15 minutes on a range of foreign policy issues, including the Syrian conflict and an incident in the Azov Sea earlier in November in which Ukrainian sailors were fired on and detained by Russia.

The latter incident sparked international condemnation and was the reason given by Mr Trump to cancel what would have been an official face-to-face meeting with Mr Putin in the Argentinian capital.

November's meeting came just months after the two leaders had spoken privately at the infamous summit in Helsinki in which Mr Trump would later back the Russian president over his own intelligence agencies in suggesting that Moscow did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

At that meeting, the US president went to "extraordinary lengths" to conceal details of their conversation, it was reported earlier this month, including snatching away his translator's notes and telling them not to reveal details of the conversation.

The unusually secretive way in which Mr Trump has handled meetings with Mr Putin has left his own administration guessing at their content and raised concerns among lawmakers.

Democrats have even considered subpoenaing Mr Trump's Helsinki interpreter.

On Tuesday, US director of national intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers at a congressional hearing details of Mr Trump's discussion with Mr Putin in Helsinki were a "sensitive issue" and should only be discussed behind closed doors.

Earlier this month, the US president felt obliged to tell the media "he never worked" for Russia following separate reports that the FBI had opened a probe in 2017 into whether the president was a Russian agent.

It comes as Robert Mueller's investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia continues to bring charges against former associates of the president.

Roger Stone, a former adviser to Mr Trump, was charged last week on several counts, including lying to Congress.

He became the 34th person charged as a result of the special counsel's enquiry.

The White House has been contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, a majority of Americans said they would "definitely not" vote for Mr Trump in the next presidential election, according to a new poll.

Some 56pc of respondents in the 'Washington Post'/ABC News survey said that they would "definitely not vote for" Mr Trump if he secures the Republican nomination - double the number (28pc) who say they definitely would vote for him.

Among women, almost two-thirds (64pc) said that they will not countenance support for Mr Trump, compared to just under half (48pc) of men.

Fifty-nine per cent of independent voters who do not align with Democrats or Republicans also ruled out supporting a second term for the 72-year-old White House incumbent.

The results compare unfavourably with Barack Obama during his first term as president.

Across six polls, the former president never had more than 46pc of respondents say that they would refuse to vote for him.

Mr Obama won re-election in 2012 with 51pc of the popular vote, compared to 47pc for his Republican opponent Mitt Romney. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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