Donald Trump has now met face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin on five separate occasions, as the New York Times has reported, with no public record existing of what was discussed in any of those meetings. But after one such private meeting in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017, Trump took the extraordinary step of personally telephoning a Times reporter to defend Putin against charges that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump frequently refers to the paper as “the Failing New York Times” — 22 times on Twitter alone since his inauguration.
The July 7, 2017, meeting was an impromptu, unscheduled one between Trump and Putin during a formal dinner at the G20 Summit in Hamburg. In the video below on this page, Trump can be seen gesturing toward Putin during the dinner, pointing at Putin, then at himself, them pumping his fist, as Newsweek reported.
Trump seized his interpreter’s notes of his meeting with Putin, leaving no record — at least on the United States side — of what was said, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.
According to Monday’s report written by Times reporter Peter Baker — who did not specify whether he or another Times reporter was the recipient of Trump’s call — Trump offered an unusual defense of Putin in the phone call.
Here's Donald Trump desperately trying to get Vlad's attention at the G20 dinner. pic.twitter.com/5sIKuJvtu8
— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) July 19, 2017
“(Trump) said that he raised the election hacking three times and that Mr. Putin denied involvement,” Baker reported. “But he said Mr. Putin also told him that ‘if we did, we wouldn’t have gotten caught because we’re professionals.'”
Trump then appeared to agree with Putin, telling the New York Times reporter that Putin had “a good point” and going on to describe Russian computer hackers as “some of the best in the world.”
Though the contents of Trump’s discussion with Putin in Hamburg remains unknown, Andrew Weiss — a vice president of the Carnegie Endowment Russia and Eurasia Program — believes that in that meeting, Putin may have offered Trump a cover story to explain the meeting in Trump Tower almost exactly one year earlier between Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and a group of Russian emissaries led by Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Vesilnitskaya — who as Inquisitr noted later attended Trump’s inauguration.
New context for this video. pic.twitter.com/vElAHRy5fA
— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) January 16, 2019
As Weiss detailed on his Twitter account, Trump had learned earlier in the day of July 7, 2017, that the Times would reveal the existence of the Trump Tower meeting in a story the following day. After the meeting with Putin, on an Air Force One flight back to Washington, D.C. — the same flight during which Trump phoned the Times reporter — Trump dictated a letter essentially saying that the Trump Tower meeting was solely to discuss the issue of adoptions. Putin has banned adoption of Russian babies by Americans.
The letter was signed by Trump Jr., though reportedly secretly written by his father. The adoption story was supposedly false. As the New York Times reported and Trump Jr. himself soon admitted, the purpose of the meeting was for the Russians to give the Trump campaign “dirt” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Whether Putin essentially wrote Trump’s false cover story for him in the still-mysterious meeting remains an “unanswered question,” according to Weiss.