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Trump-Putin Meeting Underway In Helsinki


Let's turn now to the latest in Helsinki, Finland, where President Trump and Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, have gone into a meeting. They spoke to reporters just before, and this is what President Trump had to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think we have great opportunities together as two countries that - frankly, we have not been getting along very well. Let's turn to NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe, who is in Helsinki this morning.

Ayesha, good morning.


GREENE: Not exactly setting high expectations for this meeting, President Trump there saying that the two countries are not getting along very well. And he tweeted something this morning along those same lines, right?

RASCOE: Yes. So going into the meeting, President Trump tweeted, basically, that the relations between the U.S. and Russia are at their lowest point, and it's because of the U.S. and the kind of stupidity on the part of the U.S., and this - what he called a witch hunt by Robert Mueller and the special counsel.

GREENE: Oh, so President Trump is basically blaming the Obama administration and administrations of the past for what he says is stupidity that has caused this relationship to sour and also blaming the witch hunt, as he put it, which is really interesting because that's the investigation into Russian election meddling. But wasn't it his Justice Department that handed down these 12 indictments of Russian intelligence officers for their interference in the election? These indictments came down last week, right?

RASCOE: Yes. It was his Justice Department. But I can tell you that did not come up in this brief pool spray. He did not mention election interference, and he was asked by reporters afterwards whether he was going to talk about it. He did not answer that question. Now, he has been asked that question in the past couple of days, and he has said he is going to ask President Putin about what happened with the 2016 election. But he's also said in the past couple of days that he doesn't really expect much of an answer to come out of that. So that's where things stand now. He didn't touch on those kind of tough issues like the elections, but he did say that he felt like Russia and the U.S. could work together on other matters, like the military and nuclear arms reduction.

GREENE: I remember once covering a meeting where Vladimir Putin sat down with Hillary Clinton. She was then secretary of state. And there was so much reading into body language. You saw these two men sitting down together today. What was the atmosphere like?

RASCOE: It was interesting. So President Trump was kind of leaned forward and, like, putting his hands together as he was talking. And President Putin was more leaned off to the side, kind of - I don't want to say slumping in the chair, but not really sitting up at attention. So it was an interesting dynamic. And President Trump talked much longer than Putin did, and he had a lot of kind words for Putin. And Putin was really more kind of just down to business with his statement - he was glad to be there, and we have a lot of issues to talk about.

GREENE: All right. Well, whatever is happening, they seem to be down to business there in that meeting. And we'll of course be hearing from the two leaders at some point in the next few hours when they give a joint news conference. That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, who is in Helsinki covering this big U.S.-Russian summit. Ayesha, thanks so much.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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