U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a press conference after the meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

Trump on Putin talks: ‘It’s none of your business’

Donald Trump is in Japan for the latest G-20 summit, and a Kremlin official confirmed yesterday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with his American counterpart during the gathering. By some accounts, the two are expected to speak “for at least an hour.”

And what, pray tell, will the two discuss? As Politico reported, the Republican apparently doesn’t want to talk about it.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday his lips are sealed about what he and Russian President Vladimir Putin say to each other behind closed doors.

Ahead of his expected meeting with Putin on the sidelines of this weekend’s G-20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, the president told reporters that while he expected to have a positive conversation with Putin, he would not divulge whether he will press the adversarial leader about election interference.

“I will have a very good conversation with him,” Trump said, adding, “What I say to him is none of your business.”

In context, the president was speaking specifically to a White House reporter, but the larger problem is that Trump doesn’t seem to think his Putin chats are anyone’s business.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, ahead of his July 2018 summit with the Russian leader, Trump insisted that the meeting be limited to a one-on-one discussion, with no other U.S. officials, even members of the Trump cabinet, participating. The White House never fully explained why, but the assumption throughout the government was that the Republican would brief U.S. officials on the details of the meeting afterwards.

That didn’t happen. White House officials, military leaders, and even Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats all conceded in the days following the summit that they didn’t fully know what transpired behind closed doors.

It wasn’t an isolated incident. The Washington Post later reported that Trump has “gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations” with the Russian autocrat who attacked our elections in 2016 in order to put the Republican in power – at one point even “talking possession” of his own interpreter’s notes after a conversation with Putin.

This week, as the Washington Post reported, the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee renewed its request for access to the interpreter’s notes – federal records that almost certainly must be preserved under record-keeping laws – though for now, the White House insists on keeping them secret.

Those same hidden notes are the subject of a lawsuit filed two weeks ago by American Oversight and Democracy Forward, two progressive non-profit watchdog organizations, which insist that the White House has no legitimate reason to keep the notes under wraps.

Earlier this month, Trump complained that “people are so untrusting” when it comes to his interactions with Putin. I wonder why that is.