Top aides to President Trump are worried what Trump will say during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two leaders meet at the upcoming G-20 summit, The New York Times reported. The first official meeting between Trump and Putin comes amid swirling accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
There’s a fair amount of nervousness in the White House and at the State Department about this meeting and that two leaders will bond over their distrust of the media. “You don’t want to come out of there saying, ‘We’re friends, and the enemy is the deep state and the media,’” former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told the Times. “If it were somebody else other than Trump, you could imagine a tough conversation about Ukraine and election meddling, but that’s probably too optimistic,” he continued.
However, according to reports, one person in the White House isn’t worried at all: Trump himself. He reportedly has told aides he isn’t worried about the meeting and is more concerned about the optics of being scolded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel over his decision to exit the Paris climate agreement.
“I expect an Olympian level of macho posturing between Trump and Putin, who both understand the power of symbolism,” Derek Chollet, Executive Vice President for security and defence policy at The German Marshall Fund of the United States told the Times. “Putin will be very prepared for this meeting. He’s someone who is a master at manipulation.”
As Trump can’t be relied on to handle the official government business and adequately represent his nation, senior Trump administration officials have pressed for Fiona Hill — the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia — to be in the room during the highly anticipated meeting. If Hill is there, these officials believe, it will help avoid the perception that the president is too eager to cosy up to the Kremlin. The hope is to avoid a repeat of Trump’s last meeting with top Russian officials, during which he disclosed classified intelligence to two of the country’s top diplomats. Hill, who came to the White House from the Brookings Institution, previously served as the National Intelligence Council’s top intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. Her 2013 biography, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, portrayed a corrupt and Machiavellian leader attempting to balance his various public personas in an effort to hang on to power. While Trump has repeatedly hailed the “strong” and “brilliant” Russian leader, Hill said she expected little change in longstanding U.S.-Russia tensions. “I think it will come down to what it’s always been,” she told The Atlantic in November, “where the Russians will get all giddy with expectations, and then they’ll be dashed, like, five minutes into the relationship because the U.S. and Russia just have a very hard time… being on the same page.”
In the meantime, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak said that his country’s work with President Trump’s administration is “unfolding uneasily.” “There are always opportunities for positive turnarounds,” Kislyak told a Russian news outlet earlier this week. “What is needed is the resolve not to miss such opportunities. Let’s see what the U.S. will do for the meeting.” Kislyak described a new set of sanctions against Russia imposed by the U.S. last month for its interference in the 2016 election as “another headache.” “Sometimes, you are surprised at the ease with which the American establishment is ready to sacrifice normalcy in our relations,” Kislyak said.
Mr Ambassador, normalcy has largely been absent since 9 November 2016.
President Trump’s donation of his first-quarter salary will go toward a pair of projects at a preserved Civil War battlefield in Maryland. Trump’s $78,333.32 check accounted for his after-tax income between 20 January and the end of March. He asked specifically that it is used to maintain historic battlefields. Money will go toward restoring the exterior of Antietam’s Newcomer House and replacing a fence at the battlefield, 70 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. The battle was the bloodiest day in American military history, with more than 22,700 dead, wounded or missing after the fight, with Union soldiers making up the bulk of the casualties. The battle was regarded as a draw, but gave President Abraham Lincoln a strategic win that led days later to the Emancipation Proclamation. This donation aside, Trump is proposing a crippling $1.6 billion budget cut to US national parks, battlefields and other public lands.