President Donald Trump, en route to the G20 summit in Argentina, announced via Twitter that he was canceling a meeting between himself and Russia President Vladimir Putin.
Trump made the announcement shortly after revelations came forward from a guilty plea that was made earlier in the day from his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who admitted he lied to lawmakers when he testified before Congress and said that negotiations between Russia and Trump to build a Trump Tower in Moscow had ended before Trump became a candidate for president.
In fact, Cohen said on Thursday morning the Trump Tower negotiations lasted into 2016, well into Trump’s presidential campaign. Such negotiations wouldn’t be illegal necessarily, but they do indicate that representatives for Trump were still in communications with Russia during the election season, a point Trump has denied up to this point.
In his tweets on Thursday, on his way to the G20 summit, Trump suggested that his reason for canceling the meeting with Putin had more to do with a situation involving Ukraine, in which Russia seized several ships from their neighbor to the west and had not yet released sailors held as captives.
“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Trump said in his tweets.
NEW: On his way to the G-20 summit in Argentina, Pres. Trump says he is canceling his planned meeting with Vladimir Putin, citing Russia's standoff with Ukraine. https://t.co/MgOBB8gRCi pic.twitter.com/9LXnyVMZum
— ABC News (@ABC) November 29, 2018
That statement contradicted what Trump had said shortly before to reporters at the White House.
“I think it’s a very good time to have the meeting,” Trump said. “I’m getting a full report on the plane as to what happened with respect to that and that will determine what I am going to be doing.”
Some on social media questioned the timing of Trump’s Ukraine announcement as a matter of convenience rather than conviction.
“[T]he real issue is that, good and bad, the President’s foreign policy is driven by his financial interests and the fall out of his criminal acts,” Josh Marshall from Talking Points Memo said in a tweet.
Jeff Zeleny, a senior White House correspondent with CNN, tweeted out that Trump’s change in tone toward Putin “[s]ounds like someone is trying to change the subject here.”
And Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia under former President Barack Obama, laid it out as plainly as one could say it. “Did Trump cancel his meeting with Putin because of Russian attack on Ukraine or Cohen revelations?” he asked in a tweet.