Trump and Putin Had a Nice Christmas Chat, But the White House Isn't Talking About It

Putin thanked Trump for U.S. intelligence that purportedly thwarted a terrorist attack planned for St. Petersburg on New Year's Eve.

by Tim Hume
Dec 30 2019, 3:25pm

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Vladimir Putin called Donald Trump for a chummy holiday season catch-up Sunday, thanking him for intelligence that had helped prevent terror attacks on Russian soil, according to the Kremlin.

During the call, which was initiated by Russia, Putin thanked Trump for “information transmitted through the channels of U.S. special services that has helped thwart terrorist acts in Russia,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The statement gave no further information about the plot that purportedly had been disrupted. But Russian government news agency TASS, citing a source from the Federal Security Service (FSB) intelligence agency, reported that two Russian citizens were arrested on Friday based on intelligence provided by the U.S.

The pair were suspected of planning an attack in St Petersburg during New Year’s Eve celebrations, according to the report.

READ: Putin’s totally got Trump’s back on impeachment

The White House has not yet released a statement on the call, or responded to a VICE News request for a readout. But it’s not unusual for the Kremlin to put out statements about their exchanges ahead of the White House.

Putin’s office said that during the call, the first between the leaders since July, the two leaders had discussed “several matters of mutual interest” and that “an agreement was made to continue bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”

It’s not the first time Putin has called Trump to thank him for a counter-terrorism tip-off. A similar call between the two leaders took place in December 2017, when Putin thanked Trump for CIA intelligence that had thwarted planned attacks by ISIS-inspired jihadists on multiple targets in St. Petersburg.

The FSB said at the time it had arrested seven members of a terror cell, along with explosives, weapons and extremist literature.

Trump has faced fierce scrutiny for his cozy relationship with the Russian leader, after U.S. intelligence agencies found that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

READ: ‘Putin’s cook’ is behind Russia’s Facebook meddling in Africa too

Along with repeatedly praising Putin, Trump has said he believes the Russian leader’s denials that his government meddled, dismissed allegations that Putin used violence against his opponents, and once shared highly classified intelligence with two senior Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting.

When the pair met at the G20 summit in Osaka in July, they made light of the election meddling issue at a press conference, then shared a joke about their mutual problem with “fake news.”

READ: Trump and Putin joked about election interference and killing journalists

Putin has even invited Trump to Victory Day celebrations in Moscow in May. Trump said last month he was weighing whether or not he’ll attend.

Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump