President Trump met face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Japan and told his counterpart not to "meddle" in the 2020 elections when pressed by a reporter, but his delivery faced immediate criticism as being aloof.
Trump, who was seated next to Putin, was asked by a reporter if he would tell "the Russian president to not meddle in the election." There was some cross talk in the room at the time. Trump, without looking at Putin, responded, "Of course I will. Don't meddle in the election, president. Don't meddle in the election."
Trump's tone and delivery were immediately called out. The AP ran a headline, "Trump Jokes to Putin: Don't Meddle in the Election."
The report said his tone was "open to interpretation but would seem to do little to silence questions about Trump's relationship with Russia in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller's conclusion that his campaign did not collude with Russia in 2016."
Trump's supporters will likely say the reporter's question was awkward and the serious discussion should not play out in the public eye. Trump's critics will likely conclude that he refuses to see the seriousness of defending U.S. elections from a foreign government, hence his offhanded response.
Friday’s meeting is the first between the two leaders since the Mueller Report documented the extensive ways in which Russia sought to influence the 2016 election. The Mueller report did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump associates and the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the election. Putin has denied that Russia meddled in the American election to help Trump win.
The two are in Osaka for the summit. Before the meeting, Trump said he expected a "very good conversation" but told reporters "what I say to him is none of your business."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.