President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin not to meddle in the elections – with a smile.
The president was asked at the top of a meeting Friday in Japan whether he would tell the Russian president not to interfere in the 2020 elections – as the Mueller report concludes Russia did in 2016.
‘Yes, of course I will,’ Trump responded.
‘Don’t meddle in the election, please,’ Trump told Putin, with a smile on his face, turning to the Russian amid cross-talk in a room packed full of reporters and dignitaries.
‘Don’t meddle,’ Trump told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin when asked about election interference during the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019
‘Don’t meddle in the election,’ Trump repeated.
He smiled at his counterpart as he made the statement.
Earlier, Trump told reporters: ‘We’ve had great meetings. We’ve had very, very good relationship. And we look forward to spending some very good time together.
‘A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship. So Vladimir, thank you very much,’ Trump said.
The two men shook hands at the top of a meeting
‘A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship,’ Trump said
The two men met for the first time since the release of the Mueller report Friday
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin walked into a ‘family photo’ session after many other leaders had gathered
President Donald Trump, left, speaks with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during family photo session at G-20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019
The two men were seated next to each other with a floral arrangement.
Putin spoke only in broad strokes in brief comments, speaking in Russian through a translator.
‘We haven’t seen each other since Helsinki meeting,’ Putin noted, referencing their summit meeting where Trump took heat domestically for saying he accepted Putin’s denial of election interference – which is contradicted by the U.S. Intelligence Community assessment.
Before his trip to Japan, Trump said that he ‘may’ raise the issue of Russia’s election interference.
There was an earlier show of camaraderie, as the two men chatted on the way to a ‘family photo’ at the G20 summit here in Osaka.
Trump said afterward he had a ‘very good’ meeting with Putin
Trump shook Putin by the hand as they met on the sidelines of G20 today
The meeting was the first time the two leaders have held face-to-face talks since a controversial meeting last year in Helsinki
Trump patted Putin gently on the back on the way to the event, where he stood next to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The ribbing about election interference comes in contrast to the deadly serious tone of the Mueller report.
Mueller’s report concluded after a two year investigation that: ‘The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Russia’s actions ‘favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.’
Trump also got asked about Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian vessels on the eve of their scrapped meeting in Buenos Aires.
‘We haven’t discussed them. Haven’t discussed them,’ Trump responded.
Trump called repeatedly during the campaign for improved ties with Russia.
After taking office, he blasted the Mueller probe as a ‘witch hunt’ and the ‘Russia hoax.’
Nevertheless, Mueller identified a series of contacts between Trump officials and Russia during the campaign. Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is now serving a jail sentence in part for lying to Congress about his efforts to negotiate a Trump tower project in Moscow during the campaign.
Trump former campaign chair Paul Manafort was in Manhattan court Friday. He is already starting a 7 1/2 year prison sentence for financial crimes, including laundering millions in overseas profits working for a pro-Moscow Ukrainian political party.
House Democrats continue to probe a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top Trump campaign officials and Russians, although Mueller did not recommend charging officials who took part in it with any crime. Among them were Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is here in Japan with Trump.
At the top of their meeting, Trump said it was a ‘great honor’ to meet with Putin.
He said the men would discuss topics ‘including trade and including some disarmament. He also added cryptically: ‘A little protectionism perhaps, in a very positive way.’
In the room with Trump were Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Kushner and Ivanka, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, national security advisor John Bolton, and incoming press secretary Stephanie Grisham.