President Donald Trump has held his first bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The hotly anticipated encounter began with a warm exchange of pleasantries, the Russian government's actions during the 2016 presidential election casting a shadow over proceedings (video below).
On July 7, Trump and Putin met face to face for the first time at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Hamburg, Germany. Trump had indicated earlier that morning on social media that he had looked forward to meeting with the Russian president the most out of a collection of world leaders.
"I look forward to all meetings today with world leaders, including my meeting with Vladimir Putin," Trump tweeted out. "Much to discuss."
The president has faced pressure to use his first bilateral meeting with Putin to discuss Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Putin ordered an influence campaign to hack into both political parties and disseminated stolen emails to undermine former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign.
On July 6, the Senate Minority Leader, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, published a letter signed by several other Democrats urging Trump to confront Putin about his cyber campaign, Politico reports.
"We believe it is crucial for you -- as the President of the United States -- to raise this matter with President Putin and to ensure that he hears you loud and clear -- interfering in our elections was wrong in 2016 and it will not be permitted to happen again," Schumer and his colleagues wrote.
During the G20 summit, Trump took to social media to reference the 2016 campaign -- blasting Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
"Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA," Trump tweeted out. "Disgraceful!"
A White House aide told The Daily Beast that they had "no idea what he's talking about."
Another senior White House official asserted that G20 summit attendees were not discussing Podesta and that Trump "himself brought it up."
Podesta, whose own server was hacked and disseminated during the campaign, promptly fired back on Twitter.
"Get a grip man, the Russians committed a crime when they stole my emails to help get you elected President," Podesta tweeted out. "Maybe you might try to find a way to mention that to President Putin."
Journalists were briefly allowed to record the beginning of Trump and Putin's meeting. The two leaders exchanged a polite handshake.
"President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it's going very well," Trump said, according to The Hill. "We've had some very good talks, we're going to have a talk now, and obviously that will continue, but we look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, the United States and for everybody concerned."
Turning to Putin, Trump added: "It's an honor to be with you."
Putin offered his own pleasantries through a translator.
"I'm delighted to be able to meet you personally, Mr. President, and I hope as you have said our meeting will yield positive results," Putin said.
The private meeting, which had no set agenda, was scheduled to occur for only 35 minutes but instead, stretched on for over two hours, CBS News reports.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was present during the bilateral meeting. On July 6, several Trump administration and congressional sources disclosed that Tillerson wanted Trump and Putin to use their meeting to discuss closer cooperation over the Syrian Civil War. The alleged strategy would be for both the U.S. and Russia to collaborate to establish safe zones in the war-torn country, allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power, and use the alliance to fully root out the Islamic State group (ISIS).
It has not yet been reported what Trump and Putin discussed during their meeting.