President Donald Trump had a good laugh with Russian President Vladimir Putin today at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Both leaders hammed it up for the cameras as Trump said to Putin, “Don’t meddle in the election, please. Don’t meddle in the election.” Trump pointed meekly toward Putin while he spoke, clearly making light of the situation.
The bizarre scene came during a photo opportunity between the two world leaders when a reporter asked if Trump would tell the Russian president not to meddle in the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election. The Russian government waged a wildly successful campaign through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to divide U.S. voters during the lead up to the U.S. presidential election in 2016, and President Putin has previously said that he favored Trump to win.
“It’s a great honor to be with President Putin, his representatives, my representatives,” said Trump as reporters looked on. “We have many things to discuss, including trade and including some disarmament... a little protectionism perhaps, in a very positive way, and we’re going to discuss a lot of different things.”
“We’ve had great meetings. We’ve had a very, very good relationship,” Trump said. “And we look forward to spending some very good time together. A lot of very positive things are going to come out of the relationship. So, Vladimir, thank you very much.”
But it was the joke about election meddling that was the weirdest moment of the sit-down press event, as you can see from the video. The Russian government is believed to be behind the hack of Democratic emails that were subsequently released by WikiLeaks, timed to hurt candidate Hillary Clinton after a tape of President Trump bragging about sexual assault was made public in 2016.
Special counsel Robert Mueller found that the Trump campaign had been approached repeatedly by agents of the Russian government and that Trump and his surrogates welcomed the help. Russia’s Internet Research Agency also waged a campaign churning out tens of millions of tweets and other social media content to help sow division and even suppress voter turnout in some areas.
Trump also reportedly joked about how they don’t have a problem with “fake news” in Russia:
Democratic lawmakers have asked for the U.S. government to improve election security and to fortify the online media landscape against Russian interference, but President Trump insists that there’s no real problem. The Trump regime has previously refused to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, say that both the U.S. and Russia are at fault.
“I think the United States has been foolish,” Trump said after a meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland back in July of 2018. “I think we’ve all been foolish. I think we’re all to blame.”
In fact, President Trump has said that he’d welcome help in the next election, but says that it’s not interference for foreign governments to offer information, saying to ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos that everyone does it.
“It’s not an interference, they have information—I think I’d take it,” Trump said on June 12 from the Oval Office. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI—if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”
The reception to Putin from other world leaders at the G20 was certainly more cold than Trump’s jovial exchange. This photograph with Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May and Vladimir Putin may say it all:
The 2020 U.S. presidential election is still 1 year, 4 months, and 6 days away. And something tells me that this next election is going to look a lot like the last one. Especially when Trump has so clearly signaled to the Russian government that he likes their help.