Donald Trump announced last week that he was canceling the private meeting planned with Vladimir Putin after Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine.
As it turns out, the two world leaders carved out a bit of time to meet after all.
As Newsweek reported, Trump and Putin had what the White House called an “informal” conversation. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Saturday that the two spoke at a dinner for world leaders.
“As is typical at multilateral events, President Trump and the first lady had a number of informal conversations with world leaders at the dinner last night, including President Putin,” Sanders said in a statement.
Sanders did not say what was discussed at the informal meeting between Trump and Putin, or exactly how long they spoke, but the Russian president later said that Trump had some questions about Russia’s seizure of a Ukrainian navy ship and the capture of sailors. The military aggression has earned condemnation from a number of countries, and Ukraine has sought the help of NATO to curb Russia’s aggression.
The meeting came after Russia appeared not to accept Trump’s decision to cancel the planned private meeting with Putin. Shortly after Trump announced last week that he would not be meeting with Putin, Russia responded by saying it “rejects” Trump’s decision and was still ready for a meeting, Raw Story reported in citing a story published in the Jerusalem Post.
Donald Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin has been under scrutiny since even before he took office, amid reports that Putin ordered Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election with the aim of helping to elect Trump. In the months that followed, Trump has been hesitant to criticize Putin and even appeared to side with Putin when he denied that Russia interfered in the election. The two have now met six times since Trump took office.
There had been some speculation that Donald Trump’s decision to abruptly cancel the meeting with Putin may have had more to do with the ever-expanding Russia investigation. Last week, prosecutors claimed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort continued to lie to investigators, and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to new charges of lying to Congress. Cohen admitted that he was not honest about Trump’s negotiations with Russia for a Trump Tower in Moscow, saying that talks stretched throughout the 2016 campaign — even as both Cohen and Trump denied having any involvement with Russia.