Contrary to the official White House line, Donald Trump engaged in a policy discussion with a U.S. adversary with no official witnesses or record.
Donald Trump and the White House struggle to keep their stories straight about Trump's meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit.
When news emerged that Trump had a previously undisclosed second meeting with Putin, the White House tried to dismiss it as nothing more than"just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner," calling it an exchange of "pleasantries and small talk."
But a senior administration official later confirmed previous reports by other witnesses that the meeting was actually "nearly an hour."
In an interview with The New York Times, Trump likewise contradicted himself, even within the same breath:
She [Melania Trump] was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that’s the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.
We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting.
But discussing "Russian adoption" is not merely small talk. It's really a conversation about sanctions imposed under the Magnitsky Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012, to protest human rights violations in Russia. Putin called the Magnitsky Act "an outrageous law" and, in retribution, ceased allowing American citizens to adopt Russian children.
By revealing he discussed "adoptions" with Putin, Trump inadvertently admitted he engaged in a substantive policy discussion with the leader of a U.S. adversary, with no other U.S. officials present.
As former NATO commander James Stavridis observed, "This puts the U.S. government at a significant disadvantage because we have no record of what transpired conversationally between the president and Putin."
Once again, Trump has chosen to endanger U.S. national interests in order to pander to Putin. The American people deserve to know why.