November 30, 2018
Following an abrupt cancellation of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin—which had been scheduled to take place on December 1 at the G20 summit in Argentina, according to a leaked Kremlin document seen by Reuters—U.S. President Donald Trump now has an empty space on his “dance card” at 4:30 p.m. (GMT) that day.
CNN reported on Thursday that Trump attributed the cancellation to Russia’s refusal to release Ukrainian Navy ships and sailors seized during a maritime confrontation between the two nations on November 25.
But while Russia’s position on the incident has not changed since it attacked the Ukrainian ships, CNN pointed out that the president had begged off suddenly—less than one hour after his longtime former attorney and “personal fixer” Michael Cohen leveled fresh allegations in court about Trump’s business dealings with Russia.
Cohen pleaded guilty before a federal judge in New York City to lying Congress about pursuing a real estate deal on behalf of his ex-boss for another Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign.
“For his part, Trump tweeted en route to the summit, 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 with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”
Aboard the plane, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters the President made his decision in consultation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and National Security Adviser John Bolton. Sanders said she was not aware of any phone calls between Trump and Putin.
Earlier Thursday, Trump told reporters, “I probably will be meeting with President Putin. We haven’t terminated that meeting.
“I was thinking about it,” he said, “but we haven’t. They’d like to have it. I think it’s a very good time to have a meeting. I’m getting a full report on the plane as to what happened with respect to that,” he said at the White House as he prepared to board Marine One.
However, according to a report by the Russian news outlet Sputnik, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov insisted that the meeting was still on. “Preparation is continuing; the meeting has been agreed. We have no other information from American counterparts,” Peskov said.
Removing the meeting from his agenda at the G20 won’t necessarily preclude some type of encounter between the two leaders, who last met formally in Helsinki in July, CNN said. The summit, which officially begins on November 30, will provide several chances that will bring them into the same room for meetings and a dinner.
Research contact: @JDiamond1