While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emerged from the sit-down between President Trump and Vladimir Putin claiming the U.S. president confronted the Russian leader on election meddling, it didn’t take long for Tillerson’s counterpart to provide Moscow’s version of events. 

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Friday that Trump had actually “accepted” Putin’s assurances that Moscow was not behind the meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump administration officials quickly pushed back, telling reporters at the G-20 summit in Germany that Lavrov’s account was not accurate. 

Lavrov’s account also would appear to deviate from what Tillerson told reporters in his off-camera press briefing.

Lavrov had stressed that Trump “heard President Putin stating clearly” that the interference allegations are “not true” and the “Russian government did not meddle.”

“President Trump, I’m sure, will either say [this] himself or Rex Tillerson [will], this campaign has acquired a rather strange character,” Lavrov said, according to a translation by Russia’s Sputnik News. “Because in the course of the months that these allegations have been around, not a single fact has been presented …”

Tillerson, though, told reporters in Friday’s briefing that Trump opened the meeting by addressing concerns of Russia’s alleged meddling in the presidential campaign, leading to a “robust” discussion.

“The president pressed Putin on multiple occasions—Putin denied involvement, as I believe he has done in the past,” Tillerson said. “They had a very robust and lengthy exchange on the subject.”

Tillerson added that both presidents “agreed” the issue was a “substantial hindrance” to the ability to move the relationship between the U.S. and Russia forward.

“The president was rightly focused on how do we move forward from what may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point,” Tillerson said. 

Russia has denied allegations of 2016 election meddling — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations “absolutely groundless” earlier this year.

Trump, Putin, Tillerson and Lavrov were the only people in the room for the meeting, other than translators.

Lavrov described the meeting, as a whole, as “very productive,” touching on issues like cybersecurity, North Korea and Ukraine.

A centerpiece of the conversation was efforts in Syria, perhaps the most serious source of tensions between Washington and Moscow. Tillerson claimed the meeting yielded indications the two countries could, in fact, work together.

As the meeting was wrapping up, The Associated Press reported the U.S. and Russia reached an agreement for a cease-fire in southwest Syria, to take effect July 9. According to the AP, a separate deal to create “de-escalation zones” was brokered. Tillerson confirmed the agreement during the briefing.

“Do we have the same objections in mind? By and large, our objectives are exactly the same, but how we get there, we each have a view,” Tillerson said, adding “maybe they’ve got the right approach and we’ve got the wrong approach.”


Russia has backed Bashar Assad in Syria, while the U.S. has backed opposition forces for years. This conflict made Syria perhaps the toughest of many issues on the table for the highly anticipated talks Friday. As the two sat down, Trump said they’ve had “very, very good talks” that will continue. 

Tillerson did, however, confirm to reporters Friday that the Trump administration’s stance on the Assad regime is left unchanged.

“Our position continues to be that we see no long-term role for the Assad family or the Assad regime, and we have made this clear to everyone,” Tillerson said. 

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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