President Donald Trump “sent a very clear message” at last week’s G-20 summit to his Russian counterpart regarding the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in last year’s presidential election, deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka said Tuesday, even if the meeting ended without an admission of guilt from the Kremlin.
Trump met for the first time last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a much anticipated face-to-face that followed months of swirling controversy surrounding a wave of cyberattacks – for which the U.S. intelligence community has blamed Russia – that targeted the Democratic National Committee and other prominent Democratic individuals.
While the intelligence community he oversees has expressed certainty in its assessment that Russia was to blame for the campaign of cyberattacks, Trump himself has been less definitive, remarking last week that he believes Russia was involved, but also that other countries and entities had sought to interfere in the U.S. election as well. Still, White House officials said Trump pressed Putin on the issue multiple times, with the Russian president reiterating his denials that his government was behind the attacks.
“Look, you can tell that the president is a very forceful character. And he sent a very clear message. This is not a court of law. We’re not there to prosecute another head of state. But the message was sent,” Gorka said of the Trump-Putin meeting during a Tuesday morning interview on CNN’s “New Day.” “And that was the most important thing that you can do at a protocol event. Remember, this is a protocol event. This is the G-20. Not a court of law. We’re not there to create conflict with Russia. Remember, this is one of the most powerful nuclear nations in the world.”
Aside from serving as a venue to discuss allegations of election interference, the Trump-Putin meeting also coincided with an announcement from the two nations of a cease-fire agreement in a portion of Syria, where the U.S. and Russia have supported opposite sides in an ongoing civil war. The two presidents also discussed North Korea, which recently tested a ballistic missile that experts have said could be capable of striking the U.S.
“Well, what we got out of it was an opportunity to finally address this issue head of state to head of state to push more than once on the question of meddling,” Gorka said of the discussion of election interference between Trump and Putin. “There was no massive smoking gun that was unveiled there, as anyone could rightly expect. But what we got out of it, which is far more important than anything to do with accusations of meddling in elections, is a chance to save lives in Syria.”