PRESIDENT Trump joked with Vladimir Putin about getting rid of journalists and Russian meddling in US elections when the two leaders met at the G20 summit in Japan today.
As they sat for photographs at the start of their first formal meeting in nearly a year, the US president lightheartedly sought common ground with Putin over the the journalists around them in Osaka.
“Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,” Trump said.
To which Putin responded, in English: “We also have. It’s the same.”
When journalists asked Trump just before he left for Japan what he would like to talk to Putin about, he told them it was “none of your business”. As they sat alongside each other, a reporter asked whether he was going to tell Putin not to meddle in the 2020 election.
Trump said: “Yes, of course I will,” drawing a laugh from Putin. Then, without looking at Putin, Trump said briskly: “Don’t meddle in the election, please,” and then repeated the phrase with a mock finger wag as Putin and the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, smiled broadly.
Relations between the two countries have been sour for years, worsening after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war. In a recent television interview, Putin said relations between Moscow and Washington were “getting worse and worse”.
Trump has sought better relations with Putin to tackle a host of issues, including his goal to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. On Friday, he emphasised the positives.
“It’s a great honour to be with President Putin,” Trump said. “We have many things to discuss, including trade and including some disarmament.”