A second undisclosed meeting at the G20 between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump has recently come to light.
The development comes as Trump announces his pick for U.S. Ambassador to Russia.
CGTN’s Jim Spellman reports.
The world paid close attention to the first meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. It was front page news from Moscow to London to Washington — but it took more than a week for word of a second encounter to become public.
The second conversation happened at a dinner for G-20 leaders and their spouses. According to U.S. media outlets citing unnamed sources, the meeting lasted up to an hour. No other U.S. officials were reportedly present. A Russian translator was used and no read out of the conversation was provided to the press.
Putin was seated next to Mrs. Trump — the U.S. first lady — at one end of the table while Trump was seated at the other end of the table between Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Julian Awada, the First Lady of Argentina
According to the White House, President Trump stopped by to speak with his wife towards the end of the dinner and only spoke with Putin briefly. The Russian translator was used because the U.S. translator spoke Japanese, not Russian, the White House said.
Any contacts between Trump or other White House officials and anyone associated with Russia have been under close scrutiny as multiple U.S. investigations look into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Critics of Trump said it was improper to not disclose the second conversation with Putin.
“There seems to be a pattern of reckless or willful concealment of contacts with the Russians,” Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic U.S. Senator from Connecticut said, “Maybe the President was embarrassed, or in some way, reluctant to disclose the fact that this meeting occurred with him, alone, with a Russian interpreter and Vladimir Putin. We still have no idea what was discussed, exactly. And this kind of private meeting is virtually unprecedented in the diplomatic world.”
Trump took to Twitter to respond, writing: “The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!”
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the dinner was designed to allow world leaders to mingle and have unscripted, casual interactions.
“This dinner…did exactly as hoped; produce a lively exchange between many and many others, particularly at the end, when the seating arrangements dissolved somewhat,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s Spokesman said. “The chancellor, in any case, was not surprised nor confused by anything.”
As Russia dominates the news about Trump, the White House has named Jon Huntsman its nominee for Ambassador to Russia. He was the U.S. Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2011 under President Obama. He speaks Mandarin and was a visible U.S. presence in Beijing.
He left that post to launch a bid for the U.S. Presidency that ultimately failed. Previously he served as Governor of the U.S. state of Utah and ambassador to Singapore in the 1990s under President George H.W. Bush.
Among his peers in the diplomatic community, Huntsman has a reputation for competence and is seen as well-versed in foreign affairs.
“I think it’s a critical posting given his familiarity with China and the United States. Of course, with so many of the issues confronting us in the world today that involve both Russia, China and the United States, he is uniquely qualified, uniquely positioned really to help America, and these other two countries work all together,” said Gary Locke, Former U.S. Ambassador to China.
Huntsman must be approved by the U.S. Senate before talking up his post in Moscow. In those Senate hearings he will likely be grilled about the ongoing Russia investigations. The process could take weeks or months.