Deep divisions are growing in the White House over President Donald Trump’s approach to Russian and its president.
The president’s national security and foreign policy advisers have been recommending a more cautious approach to Russia, and diplomats and intelligence officials are “dumbfounded” by Trump’s insistence on dealing directly with Russian president Vladimir Putin, reported the Associated Press.
That’s what made the president’s extended dinner conversation with Putin — which was only revealed this week, and included only Trump, the Russian president and a Kremlin interpreter — so baffling to the president’s top aides, officials told the AP.
“The Russian interpreter probably interpreted very clearly, but the problem is there’s no record of the discussion on the American side,” said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Trump also met with Putin during the same G20 trip for a publicized bilateral meeting, against the recommendation of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who wasn’t included in that meeting.
Those meetings typically include the national security adviser and a regional specialist from the National Security Council, officials told the AP.
Trump went to that bilateral meeting with only Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was awarded by Putin with Russia’s Order of Friendship medal in 2013.
U.S. and foreign officials told the AP that the Russians recommended Trump bring a note taker to the bilateral meeting, but the president was so concerned about leaks that he ignored the suggestion and relied on Tillerson to document the conversation.
The meeting was scheduled to last 30 minutes but instead lasted more than two hours.