DONALD Trump complained about press freedom to Vladimir Putin and branding reporters at the G20 the “fake news.”
The US President was caught on video telling the Russian strongman he would like to “get rid of them” referring to the journalists present during their meeting today in Osaka, Japan.
Trump used the term “fake news” to Putin despite it being widely accepted that Moscow spread false reports online in a deliberate attempt influence the 2016 election.
Amid the incessant clicking of cameras, the US leader said: “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it?
“You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.”
Speaking in English, Putin replied: “We also have. It’s the same.”
Vladimir Putin is alleged to have killed journalists and political opponents who have spoken out against him.
Press watchdog Freedom House scores Russia as “not free” in its rankings of countries by press freedoms.
Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it?
US President Trump
Trump’s remarks are even more surprising considering allegations that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 US election.
In his report, special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that Russia has interfered in the race, saying: “ The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.
“Russia’s actions ‘favoured presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”
However, Trump did mention the interference joking with Putin “don’t meddle in the election, please.”
Pointing his finger at the Russian leader, the brash Republican lighthearted plea prompted a laugh from an amused Vlad.
The leaders traded brief remarks on Friday about issues they planned to discuss at the G20 summit, when a reporter shouted to Trump about warning Putin “not to meddle” in the 2020 election.
Trump replied “of course” before he turned to Putin and mockingly said, “Don’t meddle in the election.”
When he playfully repeated the request while pointing at Putin, the Russian merely laughed.
Trump told reporters that it was a “great honour to be with President Putin.
Trump demands allies spend more on defence
- Trump demanded his allies cough up more military cash before his crunch meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Japan.
- The US President Trump first met with host Japanese PM Shinzo Abe as the summit kicked off today – just days after he blasted the US-Japan security pact as unbalanced.
- As he sat opposite Mr Abe in Osaka this morning, Trump said: “We’ll be discussing trade, we’ll be discussing military.”
- But earlier this week, the president criticised what he characterised as an unfair security partnership.
- Mr Trump told Fox News on Wednesday: “If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War Three.
- “We will go in and we will protect them and we will fight with our lives and with our treasure.
- “We will fight at all costs, right?
- “But if we were attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all.
- “They can watch it on a Sony television, the attack.”
“His representatives, my representatives, we have many things to discuss including trade, and including some disarmament, some little protectionism perhaps, in a very positive way, and we’re going to discuss a lot of different things.
“We’ve had great meetings, we have a very, very good relationship, and we look forward to spending some pretty good time together.
“A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship.
“So Vladimir, thank you very much.”
This morning’s meeting in Japan was the first time the two had sat together publicly since their summit in Helsinki nearly a year ago.
We’ve had great meetings, we have a very, very good relationship, and we look forward to spending some pretty good time together.
Trump on Putin
Back then, Trump pointedly neither admonished Putin over election interference, nor sided with American intelligence services over his Russian counterpart.
Today’s meeting with the Russian, which came amid a gauntlet of negotiations on international crises, trade wars and a growing global to-do list, was the main event on Trump’s agenda on Friday at the summit.
The American leader had said in advance of his chat with Putin that he expected a “very good conversation” with the Russian.
But he told probing reporters that “what I say to him is none of your business.”
Body language analysis by expert Judi James
- Trump loves to stamp the entrepreneurial businessman effect on other world leaders who could have been seen as potential foes by starting strong before building in signals of humour and shared bonding.
- This seems to be the evolution of his body language with Putin who has come from some awkward, frosty-looking poses at the start of their relationship, through to these poses of shared humour, with Trump clearly in show-boating mode.
- Trump looks good-humoured to the point of adopting his stand-up comic face in these two poses despite his signature leg splay and downward steepling power display below the waist.
- Putin’s response seems to mirror the air of relaxed good humour as he leans forward smiling with his hands flopped between his knees.
- His actual hand gesture suggests he’s still on alert here though that partial touch of the watch suggests he’s keen to get on with business.
His aides were reportedly worried that Trump could use the meeting to once again attack the Russia probe on the world stage – particularly since Mueller recently agreed to testify before Congress next month.
The Mueller report did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump associates and the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the election.
The former Special Counsel is set to publicly testify about the probe into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia – albeit “reluctantly” after top Democrats issued him with subpoenas.
Putin has denied that Russia meddled in the American election to help Trump win, even though Mueller uncovered extensive evidence to the contrary.
At a summit last November in Argentina, Trump cancelled what would have been the pair’s first post-Helsinki meeting after Russia seized two Ukrainian vessels and their crew in the Sea of Azor.
Although those crew members are still detained, Trump travelled to the Osaka meeting, where he is likely to discuss hotspots in Iran, Syria and Venezuela, as well as nuclear weapons.
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Trump said today – while sitting opposite Putin – that the fate of the sailors had yet to be discussed.
The US and Russia are also on opposing sides of the escalating crisis with Iran, which shot down an American drone last week.
But Trump played down the chance of a possible retaliatory air strike and stressed today that “there’s no rush. There’s absolutely no time pressure” to ease the tension with Tehran.
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