DonkeyHotey / Flickr putin caricature...
DonkeyHotey / Flickr

Donald Trump’s belatedly disclosed one-on-one with his bestie Vladimir Putin was Russia’s “dream scenario,” as Politico reporter Susan Glasser put it on MSNBC Wednesday.

“It’s very clear that one of the Russian goals has been to personalize this as quickly as possible with Donald Trump and in many ways it’s just surprising [Trump] went along with it,” she told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace of the two leaders’ secret rendezvous at the G20. “In fact, several former ambassadors to Russia, including Mike McFaul, have said on this program and others that they think the smartest thing Putin could have done in the run-up to the G20 was to try to get Trump alone.”

Not only did Putin accomplish that task, Trump appears to have been desperate for that interaction, which took place at a dinner for G20 leaders and was only uncovered on Monday. Just take a look at this video of Trump gesturing to Putin to set up their little confab as Puti nods in agreement.

Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to downplay the meeting Wednesday when she was quizzed by reporters about it.

“We weren’t following him around with a stop watch,” she said, “but like I said, it was a brief conversation and certainly not an hour.”

Whatever the length, the exchange certainly caught the attention of other foreign leaders at the dinner who were reportedly “befuddled” enough to relay the spectacle to Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group.  Based on conversations Bremmer had with attendees of the dinner, he described their chat as lasting “roughly an hour.”

But the cloud of mystery that hangs over the second Trump-Putin powwow isn’t all that different from their other two-hour-plus G20 meeting in one very important way: Americans will never really know the content of either exchange.

Even though six people were allowed in the first G20 meeting between Putin and Trump—including their respective top diplomats and two translators—no stenographer attended and, consequently, there was no official record of the meeting.

Trump’s dinner diplomacy included even fewer witnesses—just Trump, Putin, and Putin’s translator.

Now which one of those three people can be trusted to say what really happened: Trump, the guy who can’t recall what he tweets from one day to the next and has been ditching his pool reporters ever since the transition? Putin, the former KGB officer who has screwed over every American president who’s tried make an honest deal with him? Or Putin’s translator, who might take an unexpected fall from an eighth story window if he talked?

Right, we’ll never know the truth about what happened in either of those meetings. Ever.

For what it’s worth, Trump told the New York Times Wednesday that he and Putin talked about “adoptions”—which, if true, really means that they discussed sanctions with the goal of potentially abolishing the Magnitsky Act that has so roiled Putin. 

But speculation aside, here’s what we know for sure: Putin’s “dream scenario” meeting is yielding “dream scenario” policies for the Russian president.

Not only are White House officials busily stonewalling the Russian sanctions bill, they’re negotiating with Russians to give back their diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland, and now they’re pulling back from providing U.S. assistance to Syrian rebels who oppose Putin’s friend Bashar al-Assad.

Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. […]

Some current and former officials who support the program cast the move as a major concession.

“This is a momentous decision,” said a current official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a covert program. “Putin won in Syria.”

Make no mistake, this is a give away to Russia. Trump has not extracted a single concession from Putin. Not one. In fact, the only thing the U.S. seems to have received from Russia is the puppet Putin installed in the White House.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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