Putin Offers To Provide Record Of Controversial Trump-Lavrov Talks
RFE/RL May 17, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Moscow is prepared to provide a record of a White House meeting in which U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly shared classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Putin's remarks on May 17 came a day after political tension in Washington increased again following reports that Trump appealed to FBI Director James Comey in February to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, the national security adviser who was forced out after making misleading statements about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
"If the U.S. administration considers it possible, we are ready to provide a record of Lavrov's conversation with Trump" to U.S. lawmakers, Putin said at a press conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. He added again: "If the American administration wants this, of course."
A senior Kremlin aide, Yury Ushakov, later said that Putin was talking about a written record of the meeting, not an audio recording.
Citing anonymous officials, U.S. media reported on May 15 that during his May 10 meeting with Lavrov, Trump had disclosed highly classified information received from a U.S. ally -- reportedly Israel -- about a planned operation by the extremist group Islamic State (IS).
Putin said the United States is going through a period of increasing "political schizophrenia."
He injected a note of mockery into remarks that appeared aimed to suggest no sensitive information was exchanged during the meeting between Trump and Lavrov, quipping that his longtime foreign minister had failed to pass on any secrets.
"I spoke to [Lavrov] today," said Putin with a smile. "I'll be forced to issue him a reprimand because he did not share these secrets with us. Not with me, nor with representatives of Russia's intelligence services. It was very bad of him."
Lavrov is the highest-level Russian official to meet face-to-face with Trump since he took office on January 20. During the campaign last year, Trump praised Putin and voiced hope that badly strained Russia-U.S. relations would improve, but there have been few signs of closer cooperation against terrorism. Senior Trump administration officials have taken a tough stance on Russia's actions in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere.
Expectations of a meeting with Putin early in Trump's term never materialized, and they are now expected to hold their first face-to-face talks during a G20 summit in July.
In his remarks in Sochi, Putin dismissed outrage over Trump's reported disclosures as an effort by U.S. politicians to whip up "anti-Russian sentiment."
Asked what he thinks of Trump's presidency, Putin said that it is up to the American people to judge but that his performance can be rated "only when he's allowed to work at full capacity," implying that someone is hampering Trump's efforts.
"It's hard to imagine what else can these people who generate such nonsense and rubbish can dream up next," said Putin.
"What surprises me is that they are shaking up the domestic political situation using anti-Russian slogans," Putin said. "Either they don't understand the damage they're doing to their own country, in which case they are simply stupid, or they understand everything, in which case they are dangerous and corrupt."
The White House has denied that Trump did anything wrong in his meeting with Lavrov, which was also attended by Kislyak.
Trump said on May 16 that he had "an absolute right" as president to share "facts pertaining to terrorism" with Russia.
With reporting by RIA, Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP, and TASS
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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