Trump's secret Putin pow-wow: What could go wrong?

Trump Germany G20 Russia
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

You may not have noticed, but our current White House isn’t too big on providing the American people with information. For example, the Phillies have won a baseball game more recently than President Trump’s press crew has held an on-camera press briefing. That’s not a good sign. You have to wonder what the president’s media team is so afraid of answering under the hot lights. Maybe a question like, “When the president was at the G-20 meeting in Germany, did he have any additional long meetings with Russia’s Vladimir Putin that we don’t know about?”

It doesn’t matter now, because that question just got answered:

After his much-publicized, two-and a quarter-hour meeting early this month with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Germany, President Trump met informally with the Russian leader for an additional hour later the same day.

The second meeting, unreported at the time, took place at a dinner for G20 leaders, a senior administration official said. Halfway through the meal, Trump left his own seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Trump was alone, and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter.

The encounter underscores the extent to which Trump was eager throughout the summit to cultivate a friendship with Putin. During last year’s campaign, Trump spoke admiringly of Putin and at times seemed captivated by him.

The Washington Post noted the story of the encounter was broken by a well-connected newsletter author (!), who learned of it from two of the leaders at the meeting, who reported that participants were  “bemused, non-plussed , befuddled” by an animated and lengthy conversation between the two men.

Befuddling, indeed. Also troubling is that only Putin’s translator was involved — which can warp the conversation in the Russian’s favor and also means that no other American can vouch for what was actually said. Indeed, that’s a major violation of protocol — not that anything like that has ever stopped Trump before.

Here’s the thing: Technically it’s not an official meeting, I guess, if they have “a side conversation” at a closed dinner…and these things happen. But for an hour? After they’d spoken for more than two hours earlier in the day? (In a session that was scheduled to last 30 minutes.) They have a lot of legitimate issues to discuss — Syria, Iran and the situation in the Middle East, North Korea, etc. — but they’re also the two dominant figures in an ongoing criminal probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired in any way with 2016 election hacking by Putin’s Russia.

With Putin and Trump, you begin to wonder about all kinds of things. Two potential witnesses to a crime, trying to get their story straight? Is it just a coincidence that after Trump’s private and undocumented conversion with Putin, White House aides suddenly — and uncharacteristically — started leaking information about the June 2016 meeting between key members of the Trump team and mysterious Russians? Why do Russian officials think they’re on the brink of getting back their compounds on Long Island and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, even after U.S. intelligence officials alleged they were a hotbed of espionage? I’m not even going to mention the p…oh, nevermind.

We don’t the answers, but we do know this: A majority of Americans don’t trust their own president alone in a room with the leader of Russia. What a sad takeaway from the last six months. And why does Trump think the man who tried — and arguably succeeded — in hijacking America’s presidential election deserves the time of day, let alone three-plus hours of his rapt, fawning attention? It’s all so disgusting.