At the G20, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had another tête-à-tête during an exclusive dinner set aside for leaders and their spouses. The New York Times reported this as “a second, undisclosed, private conversation.”
Just about everything in that headline, and the accompanying photo, is disingenuous.
- The two presidents spoke in full view of all the other leaders; it was hardly “private.”
- Their conversation wasn’t something to disclose–or hide–because it happened in plain view and was indeed reported by Buzzfeed on July 8, when it was ignored.
- The photo used by the NYT was of the first private meeting between Trump and Putin, but this was more akin to speaking at a banquet table, where Trump’s wife Melania was seated next to Putin.
It seems the only part of “undisclosed” the NYT got right is that the paper itself had not disclosed the meeting in a story, until they did. The conversation on Russia was getting cold, and they needed something to heat it up–some wood for the fire.
The White House, denying it was a “second meeting,” called the story “absurd.” Trump tweeted that it’s “Fake News.”
The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2017
But really, is it a “nothingburger?”
- Trump used Putin’s translator, so presumably the only person in the room who knew exactly what each president said is that one man, who works for Putin.
- Other G20 leaders in the room expressed puzzlement at “the odd spectacle” of the American president singling out the Russian president for one-on-one conversation.
- What was discussed? We know the Trumps have less than a passing relationship with the truth, especially dealing with Russia.
These are troubling points. It’s certainly worth pursuing them. But I wouldn’t call this a “bombshell.” The timing and breathlessness of the report is just more of the NYT keeping Russia in the news.
On the other hand, Mr. President, what did you and Putin talk about? It’s a perfectly valid question, and you should answer it.