President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a second, undisclosed meeting that lasted roughly an hour at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, the White House confirmed Tuesday.
The second meeting followed an initial conversation at the July 7 summit that reportedly ran so long that first lady Melania Trump had to intervene.
The White House confirmed that the two leaders spoke on the sidelines of the G-20 couples-only dinner. National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton also told CNN that the two spoke “toward the end” of dinner and that there were no staff present, only translators.
Sidebar conversations are typically a useful way for leaders to talk informally, but the context of the Russian investigation and the fact that there is no government record is what makes the interaction “worrisome,” Stewart Patrick, the director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations told VICE News.
“In normal circumstances, I think that this sort of bilateral sidebar conversations are actually really useful,” said Patrick. “It seems more disturbing if one takes it in the context of the problematic relationships.”
“It’s just surprising that this is coming out now and that it wasn’t disclosed before by the Trump administration,” he said.
According to the Washington Post, which quotes a senior administration official, Trump got up from his table halfway through the meal and sat in an empty seat next to Putin.
The men were joined only by Putin’s Russian translator — a breach of national security protocol, Ian Bremmer, political scientist and head of the Eurasia Group, told Charlie Rose on Bloomberg.
“Never in my life as a political scientist have I seen two countries — major countries — with a constellation of national interests that are as dissonant, while the two leaders seem to be doing everything possible to make nice and be close to each other,” Bremmer said.
Trump was reportedly seated next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Putin was seated next to Melania Trump.