Another top secret: what happened in Helsinki between Putin and Trump?


“The Biden administration is looking forward to it, not back,” said House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, DN.Y., whose panel has previously considered subpoenaing the Trump’s interpreter to testify about his July 2018 meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, where only an American interpreter was also present.

Similar questions were raised after the disclosure of an unscheduled conversation with Putin at a G-20 dinner in Osaka, Japan in June 2019 in which Trump was not accompanied by an interpreter.

He had previously told reporters that his private discussions with Putin were “none of your business.”

In 2019, the Washington Post reported that the former president made “extraordinary efforts” to cover up details of his conversations with Putin, leaving some subordinates without a clear record of the interactions of world leaders.

Representative Tom Malinowksi, DN.J., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who served as Assistant Secretary of State in the Obama administration, said the details of Trump and Putin’s conversations are “historically very interesting, “but less relevant given that Trump” isn’t shaping US policy toward Russia or anything. “

Foreign policy analysts ABC News spoke to ahead of Biden’s meeting with Putin in Geneva largely downplayed concerns about the Trump and Putin conversations, and their impact on Wednesday’s summit.

“You would like to have it, but I don’t think it matters much,” said Ian Bremmer, political scientist and chairman of the Eurasia group, who first reported on Trump and Putin’s second meeting at the G -20 in 2017, ABC News said.

“What happened before obviously created an atmosphere, a situation in the United States where everyone is going to closely monitor what happens during this meeting and what is said after,” Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University and a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News. “But I think the substance of what was discussed between Trump and Putin is much less important to President Biden going forward.”

In preparation for his meeting with Putin, Biden received daily summit briefings, sessions that included advisers and experts in the government, and senior officials from the previous administration, including Fiona Hill, a Russian expert who served on Trump. National Security Council.

“Biden is very engaged in these sessions,” Brett Bruen, a former diplomat who served as director of global engagement at the White House during the Obama administration and participated in briefings with the vice president, told ABC News. of the time.

“Obama would tend to listen and ask a few questions, whereas with Biden it’s more of a conversation,” he said. “He has perhaps, more than any other first-term president making his first trip abroad, the advantage of being on the world stage for a very long time.”

While Bruen has said any lacunae in the government’s record on Trump’s conversations with Putin could create “major blind spots” in Biden’s preparations, there is no indication that the questions have disrupted Biden’s preparations.

In March, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters she was “not aware” of any “deep dive” to find out what Trump and Putin discussed during their meetings. one-to-one meetings. The White House declined to say whether the topic had been revisited before Wednesday’s summit.

“From the people I spoke to, the interpreter who was with Trump at the Helsinki meeting, the rest of the National Security Council at that time, they had a pretty good idea of ​​what that’s been said, ”Stent told ABC News.

Unlike Trump’s meetings with Putin, the Biden summit is unlikely to dominate the headlines in the same way, Bremmer predicted.

“It was the one issue that most exerted anti-Trump voters on foreign policy,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be in the news for a week or so.”

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