Earlier this month, the first official meeting between American president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin took place at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. By virtue of Trump's well-documented deferential attitude towards the Russian leader, it generated a lot of attention, as well as scrutiny over the fact that it lasted much longer than expected, reportedly running more than two hours despite only being scheduled for a half-hour. And now it's being reported that the two leaders spent even more time together. Putin and Trump allegedly had a second G20 meeting that was undisclosed to the public.
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton told CNN, "There was a couples-only social dinner at the G20. Toward the end, the President spoke to Putin at the dinner." However, the White House has reportedly denied the meeting, according to USA Today.
Word of the second meeting was first reported by Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group, who elaborated on it during an interview with Bloomberg's Charlie Rose. According to Bremmer, the high-powered duo had a more informal meeting after the two-hour official sit-down, one which was not known to the public.
Given the extraordinary focus and attention that everything involving Putin and Trump have had... Then he has a meeting with a lot of people not in it, only Tillerson, the translators, Lavrov the Russian foreign minister, and Putin. Lasts over two hours, don't have a clear readout on exactly what was said from either side. Then on top of that, you have an hour that evening that no one's even heard of.
According to Bremmer, the secret meeting took place in the evening the same day as the first, much-ballyhooed one, and lasted about an hour, meaning Trump and Putin reportedly spent a combined three hours together that day.
Bremmer also told Rose that he believes Putin is "clearly" Trump's best personal relationship out of the world leaders he's met with, and also commented on the peculiarity of their coziness, given the broadly opposed national interests of the two nations:
Never in my life as a political scientist have I seen two countries, major countries, with a constellation of national interests that are as dissonant, while the two leaders seem to be doing everything possible to be nice-nice and close to each other. That's what people don't understand.
Speculation about Trump and Putin's relationship has been a hot topic in the news as of late, as well as the broader state of U.S. relations with Russia. Thanks to the ongoing federal investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign ― allegations bolstered by recently released emails showing a clear enthusiasm on the part of Donald Trump Jr. to commit such an act of collusion ― there's a huge amount of scrutiny taking place.
Russia has also made some recent demands of the American government. On Monday, Russia demanded the return of a number of compounds in the U.S. which the Obama administration seized on the belief they were being using for spying, calling any conditions for their return "unacceptable." So far, the Trump administration has not publicly addressed the demand, but Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Rybakov has reportedly claimed the two sides are close to an agreement.