Trump accepts Putin’s word that Russia didn’t hack the U.S. election, says Lavrov

The Washington Post reports: Eight months after an unprecedented U.S election — one that U.S. intelligence agencies say the Russian government tried to sway — President Trump and President Vladimir Putin sat for their first meeting on Friday, a friendly encounter that ended in confusion over whether Trump accepted assurances that the Kremlin was innocent of any wrongdoing during the campaign.

Trump, believed to be the intended beneficiary of the Russian meddling, emerged from the extraordinary meeting — which dragged so long that Trump’s wife tried once to break it up — with a deal including Russia and Jordan on a partial Syrian ceasefire. The agremeent would mark the first time Washington and Moscow had operated together in Syria to try to reduce the violence.

But there were no grand bargains on U.S. sanctions on Russia, the Ukraine crisis or the other issues that have divided the nations for years.

The meeting, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, opened with Trump telling Putin it was an “honor to be with you.” In the closed-door discussion, Trump pressed Putin “on more than one occasion” on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential elections, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the two-hour-and-16-minute meeting, told reporters.

Tillerson said “President Putin denied such involvement” but agreed to organize talks “regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process.”

But Tillerson’s counterpart, Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov, said that Trump had heard out Putin’s assurances that Moscow did not run a hacking and disinformation effort, and dismissed the entire investigation into the Russian role.

“President Trump said that this campaign has taken on a rather strange character, because after many months, whenever these accusations are made, no facts are brought,” Lavrov told Russian reporters. “The U.S. president said that he heard clear statements from President Putin about this being untrue, and that he accepted these statements.”

The two presidents, he said, are “looking for mutually beneficial agreements and not trying to act out some confrontation scenarios, not trying to create problems out of nothing.” [Continue reading…]

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