Trump, Putin set for high-stakes first meeting

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AP Photo Trump Putin
AP Photo

(Via ABC News)

President Trump and members of his national security team will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday at the G-20 summit in Germany, in what is sure to be a high-stakes first meeting between the two leaders.

An administration official told ABC News that the only attendees for the meeting will be Trump, Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and two translators.  The meeting is expected to last just over 30 minutes.

The official also told ABC News that the president has a single briefing binder that he’s using for the entire G20 summit, and doesn’t have a binder specific to his meeting with Putin. Trump also isn’t poring over materials and potential demands, since he feels more comfortable speaking off the cuff, the official added, which some note could be a disadvantage since Putin is known to prepare extensively for such meetings.

The focus of the meeting will likely be Syria and Ukraine, though Russia’s aggressive cyber activity is also expected to be addressed in a broader sense.  It’s unknown if that will include the 2016 presidential election.

The meeting comes as Trump chided Russia earlier today during a speech to the Polish people for “destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran.”

The official “doubted” there would be any movement toward returning two Russian diplomatic compounds in the U.S. seized by former President Obama last December.

Despite the tough talk on the eve of Trump’s meeting with Putin, many are focused on what appeared to be yet another attempt by the president to downplay Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Taking questions Thursday alongside the Polish president before his speech in Moscow, Trump questioned whether Russia was solely responsible for meddling in the U.S. election, bringing up the possibility that other countries could have been involved.

“Well I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people and other countries,” Trump said. “Could have been a lot of people interfered.”

As Trump meets with Putin, questions about the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russians continue to dog the administration, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation.