Putin just reminded Trump that he has saved all the receipts from their interactions — and he's not afraid to use them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin fired a warning shot at Trump this week, strategically dropping compromising information to remind Trump that he has saved all the receipts from their interactions — and he's not afraid to use them.
Citing a Russian government official, the Financial Times reported Tuesday that Trump met with Putin at last year's G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, without a translator or anyone from his administration present during the exchange.
The revelation provides the most detailed account to date of Trump and Putin's interactions during the November summit — and the details don't line up with the White House's description of the event.
While Trump and Putin had initially been scheduled to meet at the summit, Trump publicly canceled the meeting amid new revelations about his financial and business ties to Moscow. Trump cited Russia's increased aggression toward Ukraine as a reason for canceling the meeting just ahead of the annual summit.
The Kremlin pushed back on Trump's attempt to cancel the meeting, saying Putin would still have a brief, impromptu meeting with Trump at the summit. In response, a White House official told reporters traveling with Trump to the summit that "there is no scheduled pull aside" between the two leaders.
News reports after the event discussed Trump's interactions with other world leaders attending the summit, but did not mention any meetings with Putin.
And although the White House acknowledged in a statement at the time that Trump and Putin had briefly exchanged words on the sidelines of the summit, the encounter was described as casual and unplanned — just one of "a number of informal conversations with world leaders."
But according to the new report, the meeting was not so brief, nor was it just a casual conversation.
Speaking to the Financial Times, a Kremlin official said the meeting lasted upwards of 15 minutes and included discussions about substantive issues including the conflict in Syria, as well as Russia's recent aggression toward Ukraine and seizure of two Ukrainian Navy vessels.
Trump and Putin also discussed potential arrangements for a formal meeting, the Kremlin official said.
Putin clearly had the upper hand during the exchange, as he was accompanied by a translator. Trump, meanwhile, was accompanied by Melania, and no one else.
"The four of them sat at a table and were among the last to leave," the Financial Times reported.
None of this was disclosed by the White House, and the timing of the leak from the Kremlin comes just as the Russian government is publicly expressing its anger with the Trump administration for its position on recent events in Venezuela.
The revelation that Trump and Putin discussed Syria policy is particularly damning. Less than three weeks after the November meeting, Trump abruptly and unexpectedly announced that he was ordering U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria — a move that stands to greatly benefit Putin, who praised Trump's decision, which Trump's own military and intelligence advisers had warned against.
Since Trump was not accompanied by a notetaker or translator, there is no way to know whether Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria was part of a deal he struck with Putin.
The revelation that Trump was not forthcoming about his November meeting with Putin comes just weeks after the Washington Post reported that Trump had withheld details of his previous talks with Putin from top officials in his administration, including confiscating notes from an interpreter who was present during one of the meetings.
Trump has said he has the right to meet in private with world leaders, but this latest disclosure proves why that's such a dangerous idea — especially when that world leader is Putin.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.