Trump's very private meetings are a huge favor to Putin

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Modal Trigger Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump AP

Ratcliffe said he was surprised to read Friday's New York Times report, which quoted part of his Baker interview, and reported that after the Comey firing "law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president's behavior" that they began investigating whether Trump was working on behalf of Russian Federation.

According to the Post, on at least one occasion Trump confiscated notes from the interpreter present at meetings between the two leaders and instructed them not to discuss the details of the conversations with other administration officials.

"I think it's the most insulting thing I have ever been asked", Trump said. Yet White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to the story by The New York Times by saying "This is absurd".

After that meeting, Trump and Putin held a memorable joint press conference during which Trump doubted US intelligence agencies' conclusions about Russian election interference.

After a G-20 meeting in Hamburg in July 2017, the president took possession of his interpreter's notes and instructed the linguist "not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials", the Post reported, citing current and former US officials.

A new report in The Washington Post said Trump went to extraordinary lengths to hide details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin even from high-ranking officials in his own administration. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended Mr. Trump's first official meeting with Putin, but the two presidents also spoke for up to an hour at dinner, a conversation the White House did not acknowledge for almost two weeks.

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"I would, I don't care", the president told Pirro. "I had a conversation like every president does". Presidents obviously have the right to change American foreign policy, and to forge friendships with countries that had been previously hostile. "That meeting is up for grabs".

Trump tweeted early Saturday that the report showed that the FBI leadership "opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof" after he had fired Comey. He also accused the Post of fabricating the report.

Ratcliffe said he was aware of the Baker revelations in October, and House Republicans had been working through proper channels to make the entire transcript public.

"Here's the bottom line", the president said.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Times he had no knowledge of the counterintelligence inquiry but said that since it was opened a year and a half ago and they hadn't heard anything, apparently "they found nothing". They cited Comey's handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, a controversy that many believe helped Trump defeat the Democratic nominee in the 2016 presidential election.

"And that is part of what the draft of Mueller's report, I'm told, is to be about", he said. The probe is not just about Russian election interference, or about Trump's obstruction of the probe - it is about the secret relationship between Trump and Russia that appears to be causing both these things to happen.

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