President Trump shocked his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, by asking Vlamidir Putin about the election hacking point blank during a meeting between the two world leaders on Friday.
According to the New York Times, Tillerson reportedly told an associate that he was "stunned" by Trump, who began the meeting by saying to Putin, "I'm going to get this out of the way: Did you do this?"
According to the Times, aides weren't sure whether Trump would bring up the subject during the meeting, "although he was leaning towards challenging" Putin.
Trump later asserted on Twitter that Putin vehemently denied the alleged hacking, and that was good enough for the President.
I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
Accounts, however, differ about the conversation, with Tillerson saying a "robust and lengthy exchange" was had, with Putin denying the allegations, and later saying the relationship with Russia is "too important not to move forward" from what transpired during the election.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, said, "US President Trump said that he heard firm assertions from Russian President Putin that it is not true and that Russian authorities have not meddled in the elections," adding that Trump, "said that he accepts these assertions — that's it."
Whether sanctions were discussed in the meeting was another point of contention.
On Twitter, Trump denied sanctions came up in the meeting.
Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
According to the Washington Post, however, Tillerson told reporters that Trump told Putin that lawmakers were pushing for new sanctions.
"But the two presidents, I think, rightly focused on: How do we move forward?" he said.
Many were upset on Twitter about the disparity between the accounts:
Along with the implications:
Even if you accept Tillerson readout, Trump never threatened Russia with punishment for past or future election interference. Big Putin win.— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) July 7, 2017
"agree to disagree" is not strategy to combat hacking by Russia of our elections!— Forte2x (@forte2x) July 9, 2017