President Donald Trump scolded the media Tuesday night in a pair of tweets defending his apparently hourlong, previously undisclosed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.
The meeting took place at the G-20 economic summit in Hamburg, Germany, hours after the two leaders met in a highly publicized formal meeting that lasted for more than two hours.
News of the second conversation, which occurred at a private dinner at the G-20 Couples’ Dinner, reignited concerns over Trump’s relationship with Russia.
“Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick.’ All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!” Trump said on Twitter.
“The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!” he tweeted seven minutes later.
However, as several journalists pointed out, the existence of the private dinner was never in question. Coverage of the conversation focused on its unusual length and the fact that there is no government record of it. Trump did not use an American translator during the interaction, instead relying on Putin’s translator.
Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical risk firm Eurasia Group, said other attendees were shocked by the conversation.
“Pretty much everyone at the dinner thought this was really weird, that here is the president of the United States, who clearly wants to display that he has a better relationship personally with President Putin than any of us, or simply doesn’t care,” Bremmer told the New York Times. “They were flummoxed, they were confused and they were startled.”
The White House released a statement saying “all the leaders circulated throughout the room and spoke with one another freely.”
“There was no ‘second meeting’ between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner,” the statement continued. “The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd.”