July 19, 2017 10:57 am -

Sadly, I am not at all shocked that Donald Trump had a second, previously undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Hours into a dinner with world leaders who had gathered for the Group of 20 summit meeting, President Trump left his chair at the sprawling banquet table and headed to where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was seated.

The two presidents had met earlier in the day for the first time and, as the White House put it, had developed a rapport even as they talked about Russia’s interference in the United States’ 2016 elections.

The July 7 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, was the single most scrutinized of the Trump presidency. But it turned out there was another encounter: a one-on-one discussion over dinner that lasted as long as an hour and relied solely on a Kremlin-provided interpreter.

No presidential relationship has been more dissected than the one between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, a dynamic only heightened by the swirl of investigations into whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to sway the election in his favor. Nevertheless, the meeting was confirmed by the White House only on Tuesday, after reports surfaced that some of the guests had been surprised that it occurred.

The dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies.

While the leaders-and-spouses dinner was on Mr. Trump’s public schedule, the news media was not allowed to witness any part of it, nor were reporters provided with an account of what transpired. Mr. Trump’s traveling press contingent did note, however, that his motorcade left the dinner four minutes after Mr. Putin’s did.

The dinner at which the private conversation took place stretched for more than three hours after a concert for the leaders and their spouses at the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall on the banks of the Elbe River.

There is no official United States government record of the intimate dinner conversation, because no American official other than the president was involved.

Okay, let’s review everything that is wrong with this picture:

  1. As with the first meeting, there was nobody present from the Trump team or the State Department to take notes.
  2. Worse yet, Rex Tillerson and the State Department was entirely cut out of this “impromptu” meeting – which may lead some to think it was not so impromptu!
  3. No American translator? Why in the wide, wide world of sports would Trump cede the job to Putin’s translator alone?
  4. Team Trump did not want this conversation made public.
  5. Trump refuses to reveal what exactly was discussed, and his team are obfuscating about the duration of the meeting.
  6. Are Trump and Putin panicking? The meeting occurred days before the slow drip-drip-drip about Trump Jr’s meeting with Russian agents and cut-outs “adoption lobbyists” began appearing in the mainstream press.

At the very least, Trump’s free-lancing is a breach of national security protocol – but given the overall conduct of the petulant, impulsive, erratic former reality-show host, one cannot help but assuming even worse.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.