New details emerged of an additional conversation between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month.
The previously undisclosed conversation between the two leaders was first disclosed on Tuesday by Ian Bremmer, president of the geopolitical risk firm Eurasia Group.
White House staff confirmed various media reports that Putin and Trump spoke for nearly an hour at the G20 Couples’ Dinner, shortly after the two held a formal meeting with their respective secretaries of state that lasted over two hours.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump’s formal meeting with Putin took so long that First Lady Melania Trump was sent in “to see if she could get us out of there.”
Bremmer told Charlie Rose on Tuesday that “the first thing” he thought of when he heard about the second conversation “was when [Jeff] Sessions was having these meetings with [Russian ambassador] Kislyak that weren’t ‘meetings’ — because they were in broader meetings, but they’re pull-asides, so you don’t really need to talk about it but it turns out that’s where they’re conducting business. That’s kind of what this sounds like.”
“But given the extraordinary focus and attention that everything involving Putin and Trump has had…you have an hour that evening that no one ever heard of,” Bremmer said. “It’s clearly [Trump’s] best personal relationship.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons told CNN on Tuesday that a source told him Trump got up from his seat at the dinner table, went over to Putin, and spoke with him for nearly an hour. Trump’s wife, Melania, was sitting next to Putin at dinner, according to video footage.
Trump was joined only by Putin’s translator, the White House said. The two leaders also were said to have left around the same time after dinner. There is no government record of the conversation.
News of the additional conversation came one week after Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., released an email chain showing he agreed to meet privately at Trump Tower last year with a “Russian government attorney” to obtain compromising information on Hillary Clinton.
The Trump Tower meeting has attracted sharp scrutiny as Trump Jr.’s statements about its purpose have evolved since The Times disclosed its existence on July 8.
Trump Jr. said in an initial statement to The Times that the meeting was a “short introductory” one and that he and the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, “primarily discussed” an adoption program that Russian President Vladimir Putin cut off in retaliation for the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which blacklisted Russians suspected of human-rights abuses.
Trump Jr. did not disclose the presence of Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, a translator named Anatoli Samachornov, or the vice president of a major development company Irakly Kaveladze at the meeting. And it is unclear why a discussion of Russia’s adoption policy would have required Kaveladze, who’s based in Los Angeles, to be there.
Trump’s outside legal counsel initially said Trump had been unaware of the meeting.
Soon after news of the meeting broke, however, reports said Trump had signed off on Trump Jr.’s first statement, which was subsequently amended several times to address reports of new details about the meeting.