Russian President Vladimir Putin said he thinks President Trump believed his denial of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, but it’s better to ask Mr. Trump himself.
“[Trump] asked a lot of questions on this subject, I was able to answer all of these questions. I think he took this into consideration and agreed, but, in fact, how he reacted to this ask him,” Putin said in a press conference Saturday at the conclusion of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, one day after meeting with Mr. Trump.
However Mr. Trump, unlike many other world leaders, chose not to hold a press conference during the summit, breaking with longstanding tradition. White House officials early Saturday suggested a press conference may happen, before saying the news conference had been canceled.
Putin’s comments align with those of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who told reporters in a press conference Friday after the two world leaders met face-to-face for the first time that Mr. Trump accepted Putin’s assertion that Russians did not meddle in the election. Lavrov claimed Mr. Trump said, “Some circles continue to pump up the topic of Russian interference in the American elections though they can’t prove it.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a Friday press conference would not say whether Mr. Trump unequivocally asserted whether he believes Russians meddled in the election. According to Tillerson, Putin denied any role in hacking the 2016 election when Mr. Trump broached the subject at the beginning of the meeting, and the two moved on despite the “intractable” differences between the two countries.
“The Russians have asked for proof and evidence,” Tillerson said as he briefed reporters after the more than two-hour meeting Friday. “I’ll leave that to the intelligence community to address the answer to that question. And again, I think the president, at this point, he pressed him and then felt like at this point let’s talk about how do we go forward.”
Early on Saturday, Mr. Trump said he had a “tremendous meeting” with Putin, his first comments on the high-profile talks with the Russian leader.
Russian officials sought to address the conflicting accounts. Asked about the discrepancies on Saturday, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov joked, “Trust Lavrov. I don’t work for Tillerson.”
But it will be difficult to decipher what exactly happened between Mr. Trump and Putin in Hamburg. Amid Mr. Trump’s fears of leaks, only a handful of people were slated to be present Mr. Trump, Tillerson, Putin, Lavrov and their respective translators.
In his Saturday press conference, Putin said he thought their personal relationship was “established.”
“I do not know how this will sound, but I will say as I see it: Trump on TV is very different from the real person,” the Russian leader said.