Do we dare accept the word of Bond villain Sergei Lavrov about what Trump said to Putin, mindful that Trump has spent the past six months publicly questioning Russia’s culpability? This isn’t some out-of-left-field claim. It’s precisely the sort of thing you’d expect Trump to say based on things he has said even though it contradicts the FBI, CIA, and DNI.
Easy prediction: The White House will spend the next day, or several days, denying that Trump said anything like this and then Trump himself will confirm it offhandedly during an interview. Wouldn’t be the first time.
BREAKING: Russian foreign minister says Trump accepted Putin's assurances that Russia didn't meddle in the U.S. election.
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 7, 2017
believe lavrov over tillerson on this. seems trump brought up that democrats use russia as excuse for losing. and putin agreed https://t.co/PgIcgWM8J2
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) July 7, 2017
The requisite denial:
NEW: Admin official disputes FM Lavrov's assertion that Trump accepted Putin's assurances that Russia didn't meddle in US election.
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) July 7, 2017
There’s no way to know who’s telling the truth because the two sides kept participants to a bare minimum. It was just Trump, Putin, Lavrov, Rex Tillerson, and two translators. I wonder which country insisted more strongly that the meeting be small. Given what happened the last time Trump met Lavrov, it may be that the White House wanted to make sure there’d be no leakers around to let the media know in case Trump said something “problematic.”
Tillerson gave an off-camera briefing afterward. Listen to his emphasis in the snippet below about “moving forward” or what he said elsewhere about how there “was not a lot of relitigating the past”. It seems like what happened is that Trump dutifully brought up the campaign hacking, Putin dutifully denied it, and then they both quickly decided that it wasn’t worth dwelling on when there are larger matters to discuss. This is amusing:
Mr. Tillerson said the meeting went long because the two sides “had so much to talk about,” adding U.S. officials had sent first lady Melania Trump into the room to see if she could bring it to an end.
She failed. The meeting rolled on for another hour, per Tillerson, thanks to the “very positive chemistry” between the two leaders. I can picture Trump’s aides sweating outside, increasingly nervous as the minutes ticked by that Trump was inadvertently spilling valuable intel or agreeing to sell Alaska back to Russia or something, finally deputizing Melania to go in and try to break it up as an “in case of emergency” option. According to Lavrov, the U.S. and Russia ended up agreeing to set up a “joint working group” on cybersecurity. Which, as a Twitter pal said, is like setting up a joint working group between the FBI and the mafia.
Exit quotation from Putin, pointing to the media and knowing just how to push Trump’s buttons: “These are the ones who insulted you?”