After the two leaders emerged from a meeting in Hamburg on Friday, on the sidelines of G20 summit, that lasted over two hours, at one point, First Lady Melania Trump entered the room to hurry them along US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump had raised the issue of Moscow’s alleged cyber-meddling in the election at the start of their conversation, the Independent reported.
He said the US had talked about such attacks represented a “threat to the democratic process”. An official from the White House, however, later indicated that the President had not in fact accepted assurances from Putin that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election.
“The President opened the meeting raising the concerns of the American people about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” said Tillerson. “They had a very lengthy and robust conversation on this.” He said Trump pushed him on the issue and Putin stood firm in his denial.
“I think the President is rightly focused on how do we move forward from something that may be an intractable disagreement at this point,” Tillerson said.
In his own briefing to reporters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Trump accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia did not meddle in the election.
“The issue of cybersecurity got a lot of attention, which is understandable,” Lavrov said. “President Trump mentioned that in the US, some circles are fuelling even though they cannot prove anything.”
When pressed, Lavrov said that Trump or Tillerson would likely provide further information to the press.
“In the course of the months that these allegations have been around, not a single fact has been presented, which is admitted by those in the US Congress who have led this movement at some point,” Lavrov said. “President Trump said that he heard President Putin stating clearly that it is not true, that the Russian government did not meddle” in the elections.”
Trump left the scene of his conversation with Putin, to head to Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, a concert that is the venue for a formal G20 dinner. He was accompanied by the First Lady Melania Trump.
“President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it’s going very well,” said Trump. “We look forward to a lot of very positive happenings for Russia and for the US, and for everyone concerned.” For his part, Putin said he was happy to be able to meet Trump in person.