US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a second, previously undisclosed conversation during a dinner for G20 leaders earlier this month in Germany.
The two leaders held a formal two-hour bilateral meeting on July 7 in which President Trump later said President Putin denied allegations that he directed efforts to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.
A White House official has now confirmed a second meeting later took place, but did not say how long it was or what was discussed.
The second conversation between Mr Trump and Mr Putin took place during a dinner for the Group of 20 heads of state and their spouses in Hamburg, said Ian Bremmer, the president of political risk consultancy Eurasia Group.
Television coverage of the dinner showed that first lady Melania Trump was seated next to Mr Putin.
Mr Bremmer said President Trump got up from his seat halfway through dinner and spent about an hour talking “privately and animatedly” with Mr Putin, “joined only by Putin’s own translator”.
The lack of a US translator raised eyebrows among other leaders at the dinner, said Mr Bremmer, who called it a “breach of national security protocol”.
“Pretty much everyone at the dinner thought this was really weird, that here is the President of the United States, who clearly wants to display that he has a better relationship personally with President Putin than any of us, or simply doesn’t care,” Mr Bremmer was quoted as saying by The New York Times.
“They were flummoxed, they were confused and they were startled.”
A senior European official, whose head of government was at the meeting, was quoted by The Washington Post as saying it was not unusual for leaders to circulate or “withdraw to a corner” in such private gatherings.
“Part of the rationale is the flurry of bilateral contacts that happen,” the official said.
“I don’t find it a sensation,” he said, while acknowledging that “maybe Trump and Putin are a little different” than other attendees.
President Trump is under intense scrutiny by Congress and a special counsel investigating Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election, and probing whether the Trump campaign had ties to the activity.
He has denied collusion between his campaign and Moscow.
– With AAP