Trump Meets Putin, Avoids Question on Election Meddling

The meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany is Trump's first face-to-face as U.S. president with the Russian leader.

Donald Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin — his first with the Russian leader since being sworn in as U.S. president — concluded Friday after two and half hours of talks, according to the U.S State Department.

The two leaders met at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany on Friday, a closely watched encounter as Trump comes under increasing scrutiny for his links to Moscow amid suspicions that Russia may have interfered with last year's U.S. election.

“It is an honor to be with you,” Trump told Putin, according to Reuters. “I’m delighted to meet you personally, and I hope our meeting will bring results.”

Trump deliberately avoided answering a shouted question from a reporter about Russia's alleged election meddling that brought him to the White House. U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly said Putin and Russia were behind a major hacking operation aimed at helping Trump beat Democratic competitor Hilary Clinton.

Trump had nothing to say publicly on the matter Friday, instead telling Putin, “We look forward to a lot of positive things happening for Russia and the U.S.”

As more details emerged form the meeting, Reuters reported that Putin told Trump that "phone conversations are never enough" — suggesting the Russian president wanted more face-to-face meetings with his U.S. counterpart. Something borne out later in the first official reports from the meeting confirming the two had voiced confidence that the meeting would pave the way for more positive U.S.-Russian relations in the future.

"We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everybody concerned," Trump said, according to wire reports following the encounter.

Earlier, the first confirmed face-to-face encounter between the two men was captured in a video tweeted by German government spokesman Steffen Seibert. Compared to some of Trump's notorious hands-on encounters, the shake was quite tame: Trump stretched out his hand to Putin and patted his elbow as both men smiled. As they stood side by side, Trump casually patted Putin on the back.

A second, public, handshake in front of the press was similarly underwhelming: a firm but brief grasp with nothing obviously dramatic going on.

Putin and Trump's meeting comes just a day after the U.S. President used a speech in Warsaw to call on Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran.” Some, including European Council President Donald Tusk, have seized on the comments as evidence Trump may be moving towards a harder line on Moscow and away from the more pro-Russian stance he took during the election campaign.

Trump and Putin will be joined by Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.

Nick Holdsworth contributed to this report.

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