“There is no scheduled pull-aside,” was the only response from a White House official when queried about a Kremlin spokesman saying there would be an “impromptu” meeting on the G-20 sidelines. The U.S. comment, however, leaves open the possibility there could, indeed, be an unscheduled encounter.
On Thursday, Trump said he was canceling his scheduled meeting with the Russian leader following Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crews in the Black Sea region.
“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina,” Trump tweeted Thursday on Air Force One on his way to Buenos Aires.
The announced cancellation also came hours after U.S. prosecutors revealed that Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted lying to Congress about a Trump real estate deal in Russia.
The revelation signaled the special counsel is focusing more closely on the Trump campaign’s communications with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. When asked about the canceled Putin meeting Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders emphasized the move was about Russia’s action in Ukraine, not the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“The Russian witch hunt hoax, which is hopefully now nearing an end, is doing very well. Unfortunately, it probably does undermine our relationship with Russia. However, the reason for our canceled meeting is Ukraine. Hopefully, that will be resolved soon so that productive conversations can begin,” Sanders told reporters in Buenos Aires.