Donald Trump had another of his private meetings with Vladimir Putin—and no U.S. officials, and definitely no U.S. interpreter. This one was held in November of last year, two weeks after the election … and it seems like no one even noticed.
The Financial Times (link behind pay wall) is reporting that Trump, Melania, Putin, and Putin’s interpreter sat down on the sidelines of a G20 event. In response to the reporting, the White House has acknowledged that Trump and Putin met while both were in Buenos Aires for the most recent G20 summit, but has not provided any details. As people were leaving a theater following a presentation, Trump and Putin slipped to a table and talked, with only Melania and Putin’s personal interpreter as witnesses. They stayed there until everyone else had left the building, and were eventually the last to leave. And during the discussion they talked about … no one knows.
The State Department has declined to comment. The White House has admitted that a “brief encounter” occurred, but refused to say anything more.
The Trump-Putin meeting came days after Trump had formally cancelled a meeting with Putin over Russia’s attack on a trio of Ukrainian ships in international waters. A Russian account says that the two men spoke for about 15 minutes about topics that included the Russian attack and events in Syria. There is no U.S. account. Neither Trump nor anyone else has offered any summary of the discussion.
Three weeks after the discussion, Trump unexpectedly announced that he would withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria. That decision, by which Trump abandoned U.S. allies and further upset the balance in the region, directly led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. On his way out the door, Mattis made it clear that Trump’s actions were a threat to the security of the U.S. and the region.
News of this additional meeting between Trump and Putin follows earlier reports that Trump had been extremely secretive concerning his previous meetings with Putin, going so far as to conceal meetings, demand any notes taken by the U.S. interpreter, and arrange meetings without an interpreter.
The newly reported meeting only confirms what had previously been disclosed: Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to hold conversations with Vladimir Putin while not allowing anyone else to listen and not informing the American public about their discussions.