Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the G20 summit, Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019
At the G20 summit in Japan, Donald Trump jokes with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Moscow’s intervention in the 2016 Presidential election and the prospect of interference in the 2020 vote.
In their photo opportunity, the two leaders did not mention the issue. However, a reporter asked Trump if he would tell Putin not to meddle in American elections.
“Yes, of course,” Trump said. “Don’t meddle in the election.”
He then wagged a finger playfully at Putin and repeated, “Don’t meddle in the election.”
The US intelligence community concluded in January 2017 that Russia had carried out a widespread, systematic effort to influence the Presidential election won by Trump. After a two-year investigation culminating in publication in April 2019, the 448-page Mueller Report set out “numerous contacts” between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, including over the provision and dissemination of stolen material damaging Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
But Trump has denied the Russian hacking of computers linked to Clinton, balked at sanctions against Moscow over the activity, and denigrated the investigation as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax”.
Last year, at their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, Trump chose Putin’s denial of Russian interference over the findings of US intelligence agencies.
Friday’s appearance before reporters lasted only two minutes, before Trump could say anything further about Russia and elections past and future.
Instead, Trump continued his effusive praise of his Russian counterpart, “It’s a great honor to be with President Putin. A lot of very positive things are going to come out of the relationship.”
When a reporter asked about Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships, which led to the cancellation of a November meeting with Putin, Trump said, “We haven’t discussed them.”
In contrast to his embrace of Putin, Trump has already used the G20 to assail Japan for the possibility of watching “World War III” on the US on a “Sony TV” — a comment seen as challenging to the 70-year US-Japan defense alliance — threatened tariffs on India, and criticized European officials.