First Lady Melania Trump got her own one-on-one time with Russian President Vladimir Putin a short time after her husband, President Donald Trump, has his private meeting with the fellow world leader. Melania ended up sitting next to Putin during a Friday night dinner at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, as the leaders were assigned to sit down next to their counterparts’ spouses.
While Putin sat next to Melania, Trump sat next to Argentina’s First Lady, Juliana Awada, the wife of Argentine President Mauricio Marci. Marci sat next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. China’s President Xi Jingping sat next to French First Lady Brigitte Macron.
During Trump’s private meeting with Putin, his first since taking office, Trump was only joined by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Two translators also joined in the meeting. It was the most anticipated moment of the summit.
After the meeting, the White House said that Trump and Putin’s meeting lasted two hours and 15 minutes. Tillerson told the media that Trump did bring up allegations that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. Putin denied personal involvement.
“They had a very robust and lengthy exchange on the subject. The President pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement,” Tillerson said. “President Putin denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past.”
Tillerson said that Putin and Trump both agreed that this was a “hindrance” to U.S.-Russia relations.
However, The New York Times reports that the Kremlin put forth its own version of events, claiming that Trump accepted Putin’s denial. The Russian government even claimed that Trump felt some in the U.S. are “exaggerating” Russia’s role in the election.
“President Trump said that he heard the clear statements of President Putin that this is not true, and that the Russian leadership did not interfere in these elections, and that he accepts these statements,” Lavrov said after the meeting.
Trump has publicly cast doubt on U.S. intelligence, doing so as recently as Thursday in Poland. He told reporters that he thinks Russia was involved, but “nobody really knows for sure.” Trump added, “Well, I think it was Russia and I think it was other people in other countries who also interfere. I won’t be specific, but I think a lot of people interfere.”
Trump and Putin’s meeting did have at least one positive result. The two sides agreed on a cease-fire in Syria that will start as early as Sunday and will work on combating cyber threats.
They “agreed to explore creating a framework around which the two countries can work together to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats, both in terms of how these tools are used to in interfere with the internal affairs of countries, but also how these tools are used to threaten infrastructure, how these tools are used from a terrorism standpoint as well,” Tillerson said.
The dinner also came after Melania was forced to miss a boat trip planned for other spouses of world leaders. The Telegraph reported that Melania was stuck in her hotel during protests, because American staffers believed it was too dangerous for her. Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Trumbull were also under a “security lockdown” at one point because of the protests. The European Union’s representatives were also late to a press conference thanks to protesters.
On Saturday, Trump has more G20 meetings, including private discussions with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, Japanese President Shinzo Abe and Xi. He is scheduled to be back in Washington D.C. by 9:00 p.m. ET
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