A new book by a Trump-era White House press secretary claims that the former president told Vladimir Putin he would put on a tough act while the cameras were on at a summit where the two men spoke in private.
In her upcoming book I’ll Take Your Questions Now, which has been seen by the Washington Post, Stephanie Grisham claims that at the G20’s Osaka summit in June 2019, she heard Mr Trump murmur to his Russian counterpart that any toughness was just for show.
“Okay, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes,” she recalls the president saying. “But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk. You understand.”
The Trump-Putin sit-down at the Osaka summit came a few months after the release of Robert Mueller’s report on alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and agents of the Kremlin – a report that Trump and his aides, most notably Attorney General Bill Barr, misleadingly claimed had exonerated the president.
The Osaka meeting was also the two presidents’ second major encounter after their infamous joint appearance in Helsinki in 2018, an event that saw Mr Trump side with Mr Putin’s claims that he did not intervene in the 2016 election against all the accounts given by the US intelligence services.
Along with Mr Trump’s alleged words to Mr Putin, Ms Grisham also claims that the Osaka meeting saw the Russian president use a fiendishly simple tactic to throw off Mr Trump’s control of the conversation – at least according to Fiona Hill, then a top administration adviser on Russian matters.
“As the meeting began,” Ms Grisham writes, “Fiona Hill leaned over and asked me if I had noticed Putin’s translator, who was a very attractive brunette woman with long hair, a pretty face, and a wonderful figure. She proceeded to tell me that she suspected the woman had been selected by Putin specifically to distract our president.”
Mr Trump’s private conversations with Vladimir Putin have been a matter of concern since before they even happened, particularly for the intelligence and national security communities. Once Mr Trump left office, State Department translator Marina Gross – often the only American privy to the two men’s discussions – said that to listen to them was like “eavesdropping on two friends chatting in a bar”.
The content of Mr Trump and Mr Putin’s calls is now accessible by Joe Biden.
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