On Friday, President Trump met for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A lot was said during the meeting, which lasted over two hours despite only being scheduled for 30 minutes, but details of the discussion are proving hard to come by due to differing accounts from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The meeting did not have a specific agenda, but Tillerson and Lavrov have both said that the subject of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election came up. The two officials differ, though, with their comments on what was specifically said about the election.
Shaun Walker, a reporter for The Guardian, described Lavrov’s description of the election discussion as follows:
‘An unusually irritable Sergei Lavrov took questions from the Russian media. It sounded like there had been few major breakthroughs.
‘The most interesting part was his claim that Trump had told Putin he found it “strange” that there was a “campaign” over alleged Russian hacking in the election as there has been no proof.
‘Lavrov claims Trump told Putin he had heard his entreaties that Russia did not hack the election and accepts them.’
In addition to accepting Putin’s assurances, Trump also reportedly tried to downplay the U.S.’s concerns about interference in the election. According to BBC reporter Steve Rosenberg, Lavrov said that Trump told Putin that “some circles in American were ‘exaggerating’ allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.”
These statements from Lavrov are very different from Tillerson’s description of the conversation between the two controversial world leaders.
When discussing the topic of Russia’s interference, Tillerson told reporters that he didn’t think the U.S. and Russia would ever fully resolve the issue.
Tillerson also claimed that Trump started the meeting by “raising the concerns of the American people” over Russia’s meddling. The president then reportedly “pressed” Putin on the matter “on more than one occasion.”
Tillerson went on to say that Trump was more interested in talking about how the U.S. and Russia can “go forward” rather than “spending a lot of time having a disagreement” over the election interference. The secretary of state added:
‘Everybody knows we have a disagreement.’
In addition to having a disagreement about whether or not Russia meddled in the election, the U.S. and Russia also clearly have a disagreement about what was said during today’s meeting. The White House has reportedly denied that Trump accepted Putin’s statement on the interference, despite Lavrov saying otherwise.
The meeting and the discussion about Russia’s involvement in the election came one day after Trump said during a press conference in Warsaw, Poland that “nobody really knows” whether the interference came from Russia or “other countries.”
‘Well I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people and other countries. It could have been a lot of people that interfered.
‘It could have very well been Russia but it could well have been other countries and I won’t be specific but I think a lot of people interfered. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.’
Featured image via Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images.