‘Don’t meddle in the election’: Trump appears to joke with Putin as they meet at G20 summit for the first time since Mueller report

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump during a bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, on Friday.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump during a bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, on Friday.
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REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

  • President Donald Trump appeared to jokingly tell Russian President Vladimir Putin “don’t meddle in the election” when pressed by reporters on whether he would address election interference during his one-on-one meeting with the Russian leader at the G20 summit on Friday.
  • Trump and Putin met Friday for their first face-to-face encounter since the special counsel Robert Mueller completed his investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 campaign.
  • Before their scheduled meeting, Trump turned to Putin and pointed a finger, saying “don’t meddle in the election,” which seemed to elicit laughter from both leaders.
  • Earlier, Trump strolled into the summit alongside Putin before posing for a photo with the other world leaders.
  • Trump had repeatedly avoided questions about whether he would discuss election meddling with Putin at the forum.
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President Donald Trump appeared to jokingly tell Russian President Vladimir Putin “don’t meddle in the election” when pressed by reporters on whether he would address election interference during his one-to-one meeting with the Russian leader at the G20 summit on Friday.

Trump is in Osaka, Japan, for the two-day forum, and he plans to speak with several world leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on the sidelines.

Trump’s meeting with Putin on Friday marked the two leaders’ first time speaking face-to-face since the special counsel’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election was completed in March and made public in April.

The former special counsel Robert Mueller, in his only public statement, last month shared findings of his investigation. “As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system,” he said.

Sitting next to Putin before the leaders were to meet privately, Trump on Friday was pressed on whether he would tell Putin not to meddle in the election.

“Of course I will,” he said, before pointing a finger at Putin and saying “don’t meddle with the election,” and both leaders seemed to laugh.

Earlier, Trump strolled into the G20 summit alongside Putin before posing for a photo with the other world leaders.

Trump had repeatedly dodged questions about whether he would speak with Putin about election meddling while at the G20 summit. When the two leaders met in Helsinki last year, Trump declined to press Putin on the matter and appeared to side with the Russian leader’s denials over the conclusions of US intelligence agencies.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia,” Trump said at a press conference in 2018. “I don’t see any reason why it would be.” He later said he meant to say “wouldn’t” instead of “would.”

Trump told NBC News in an interview this week that he “may” discuss 2020 election meddling with the Russian leader, though he did not officially confirm an agenda for their meeting.

Before departing for Osaka on Wednesday, Trump told reporters that he hoped for a “very good conversation” with Putin but said the specifics of the conversation were “none of your business.”

“The Presidents agreed the two countries will continue discussion on a 21st century model of arms control, which President Trump stated as needing to include China,” a readout from the White House of the meeting said. “The leaders also discussed the situations in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Ukraine.”