President Trump on Saturday did not clarify details regarding his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin the previous day, saying only that it was “tremendous.”
Although the highly-anticipated meeting on Friday lasted more than two hours – which was nearly two hours longer than it was scheduled – details about what the two world leaders discussed have been scant. Accounts shared by Russian and U.S. officials significantly differ.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump repeatedly pressed Putin regarding possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, an issue currently under FBI and congressional investigation in the U.S.
“The two leaders agreed that this is a substantial hindrance on the ability of us to move Russian-U.S. relationships forward and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries,” Tillerson said.
However, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov implied the topic was brief and not contentious.
“U.S. President Trump said that he heard firm assertions from Russian President Putin that it is not true and that Russian authorities have not meddled in the elections,” Lavrov said. “[Trump] said that he accepts these assertions. That’s it.”
Trump’s critics including Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerTrump: Meeting with Putin ‘tremendous’ Conservative warns McConnell to not give up on ObamaCare repeal Schumer rips Tillerson remarks as ‘disgraceful’ MORE (D-N.Y.) slammed Trump following the meeting for taking a weak position with Putin by giving him the benefit of the doubt on Russian hacking. Putin has denied the Kremlin was involved in election interference.
“To give equal credence to the findings of the American Intelligence Community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future,” Schumer said.
Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Russia did attempt to interfere in the election, although officials do not believe results were influenced.
The president has not described the meeting with Putin other than to call it “tremendous.” He made the comment during another meeting with a world leader, British Prime Minister Theresa May, during the ongoing Group of 20 talks in Germany.