Trump jokes to Putin: ‘Don’t meddle in the election’ | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Trump jokes to Putin: ‘Don’t meddle in the election’

Associated Press
1350118_web1_1350118-78fe429e8f064a5fa0516644da945cf8
AP
President Donald Trump, right, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019.
1350118_web1_1350118-19e1502841ec44a1acf27a9c27a56740
AP
President Donald Trump arrives to greet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019.
1350118_web1_1350118-e91437c89d36401d86815a20581bcf4a
AP
President Donald Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019.
1350118_web1_1350118-f2d80cb46ee34f50887d17529061a259
AP
President Donald Trump meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019.

OSAKA, Japan — With a smirk and a finger point, President Donald Trump dryly told Russia’s Vladimir Putin “Don’t meddle in the election” in their first meeting since the special counsel concluded that Moscow extensively interfered with the 2016 campaign.

The tone of the president’s comment did little to silence questions about Trump’s relationship with Russia in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that he could not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

The moment at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka echoed one of the most defining moments of Trump’s presidency in Helsinki, Finland. There, he pointedly did not admonish Putin about election interference and did not side with U.S. intelligence agencies over his Russian counterpart.

Trump and Putin traded brief remarks Friday, the first time they sat together since Helsinki, about issues they planned to discuss when a reporter asked Trump if he would warn Putin not to meddle in the 2020 election.

“Of course,” the president replied. Then he turned to Putin and facetiously said, “Don’t meddle in the election.” He playfully repeated the request while pointing at Putin, who laughed.

Trump said he enjoyed a “very, very good relationship” with Putin and said “many positive things are going to come out of the relationship.” The Kremlin says Putin has invited Trump to visit Russia next year to mark the 75th anniversary of the allied victory in World War II.

Putin has repeatedly dismissed the Mueller report’s conclusion that Russia had systemically interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, telling the Financial Times earlier this week that it was “mythical interference.”

Putin said that what really happened was that Trump saw changes in American society and took advantage of them.

Putin, who has highlighted national populist movements in Europe and America, told the newspaper that he thinks liberalism — the main political ideology in the West since the end of World War II — is dead.

He praised Trump for trying to stop the flow of migrants and drugs from Mexico.

“This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done — that migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected,” Putin said in the FT interview.

“Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

While Trump has long placed a premium on establishing close personal ties with Putin, his administration has increased sanctions and other pressures on the Russian government.

The United States and Russia also are on opposing sides of the escalating crisis with Iran, which shot down an American drone last week. Trump nixed a possible retaliatory air strike, but says the U.S. remains firm that Tehran should not have nuclear weapons and that it needs to stop supporting militant groups. “There’s absolutely no time pressure,” Trump said. “I think that in the end, hopefully, it’s going to work out. If it does, great. And if doesn’t, you’ll be hearing about it.”

At a summit last November in Argentina, Trump canceled his meeting with Putin over Russia’s seizure of two Ukrainian vessels and their crew in the Sea of Azov. Those crew members remain detained, yet Trump opted to forge ahead with the Osaka meeting. Trump said Friday alongside Putin that the fate of the sailors had yet to be discussed.

The leaders also have announced their withdrawal from a key arms control pact, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It is set to terminate this summer, raising fears of a new arms race. Another major nuclear agreement, the New Start Treaty, is set to expire in 2021 unless Moscow and Washington negotiate an extension.

The White House said after Friday’s meeting that the leaders agreed to keep talking about a “21st century model of arms control,” which Trump said needs to include China. In addition to Iran, the two leaders also discussed Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine. The U.S. and Russia are on opposing sides on those three issues too.

But the backdrop of U.S.-Russia relations remains Moscow’s 2016 election interference.

Though the meeting occurred in the early morning hours back in the United States, some were quick to denounce the president’s comments. Michael McFaul, who was U.S. ambassador to Russia under Barack Obama, tweeted that he found Trump’s conduct “depressing.”

“Trump’s admiration and appeasement of Putin is so bizarre,” he wrote. “I can’t think of one concrete U.S. interest that has been advanced by Trump’s behavior.”

The sit-down with Putin came amid a gauntlet of negotiations on international crises and trade wars. The president is to meet on Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump said he believed there was “a very good chance” they could make progress toward ending their trade dispute.

Trump also is keeping an eye on the race to replace him back home. Ten Democrats met in Miami, Florida, as part of the first debates of the 2020 presidential race.

“I just passed a television set on the way here. I saw that health care and maximum health care was given to 100% of the illegal immigrants coming into our country by the Democrats,” Trump said, telling German Chancellor Merkel during their meeting that a debate the previous night “wasn’t very exciting.”

“So I look forward to spending time with you rather than watching,” he said. Merkel did not react.

Later, while meeting with Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, Trump segued from a discussion on the crisis in Venezuela to declare that he had heard a rumor that the Democratic Party will change its name to the Socialist Party. “I’m hearing that, but let’s see if they do it,” Trump said.

There have been no such rumors.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.