President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for about 15 minutes at a dinner during the G-20 summit earlier this month, giving the first indication of what topics the two discussed during the previously undisclosed meeting.
In an interview with the New York Times, Trump said that he and Putin exchanged “pleasantries” and discussed adoptions during the chat.
“The meal was going toward dessert,” Trump said. “I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin.
“Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about things,” Trump said. “Actually, it was very interesting; we talked about adoptions.”
The talk of adoptions comes days after it was reported that Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., took a meeting with people claiming to represent the Russian government in 2016. The individuals, who had ties to Russia, told Trump Jr. that the meeting would be about derogatory information they had about Hillary Clinton. But in a statement explaining the meeting Trump Jr. said that the topic was about U.S. adoptions of Russian children, which Putin had halted in 2012 in retaliation for a U.S. measures meant to respond to Russian corruption.
Earlier in the day, a White House spokeswoman played down the controversy over the meeting in Hamburg.
Principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blamed “Russia fever” for the questions the White House has faced about the nature of the meeting, which reportedly lasted about an hour. Trump was alone at the meeting, while Putin was accompanied by his interpreter.
“I think that once again, the Russia fever has caught up with the media, and everybody ran out and tried to create a story that simply didn’t exist,” Huckabee Sanders told reporters during the daily news briefing. “It would be incredibly awkward for them to all be at a dinner and not speak with each other.”
The two leaders were attending a social dinner and concert at the G-20 summit with other world leaders. Trump was seated next to the spouses of other world leaders, and Putin was seated next to first lady Melania Trump. This undisclosed meeting occurred hours after they met for a formal bilateral session.
According to people who witnessed the second exchange, Trump rose from his seat and took a place next to Putin. Their conversation was lengthy enough that it caught the attention of other world leaders at the dinner.
But Huckabee Sanders insisted that the conversation was “brief” and “certainly not an hour.”
She would not, however, say what was discussed.
“I’m not going to get into specifics about the conversations,” she added.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Abby Phillip