President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as part of the G20 summit in Osaka, where he asked the Russian president not to interfere in the 2020 presidential election in the U.S., all the while grinning and leaving the impression that he was trying to make light of the issue.
Trump’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question if he would ask Russia not to meddle in the U.S. election.
“Yes, of course, I will. Don’t meddle in the election, please. Don’t meddle in the election,” Trump said, pointing to Putin and smiling. The Russian president likewise chuckled in response, The Hill writes.
President Trump also told reporters that he and Trump would discuss trade, disarmament and “a lot of different things.”
A readout of the two leaders’ meeting only mentioned their discussions regarding improving U.S.-Russia relations, arms control, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran and Syria.
Ever since special counsel Robert Mueller released his report a few months ago, the two presidents had only spoken by phone, allegedly discussing “the Russian hoax.” The report detailed the Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election and help Trump win, although no conclusions were drawn in the report about any collusion between Russia and the United States.
Trump’s behavior was not met well, with some criticizing his attempt to make light of the situation. Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul expressed his dissatisfaction with the President’s reaction, saying, “Trump laughed off election interference and doesn’t bother to raise Putin’s belligerent, illegal behavior against Ukrainian sailors. Disappointing but no longer shocking. Trump consistently appeases Putin at the expense of U.S. national security interests.”
In a recent Financial Times interview, Putin dismissed Mueller’s findings, saying it was “strange” his country was still being accused of interference. He also offered praise for Trump while opining that “the liberal idea has become obsolete.”