Donald Trump Defends Putin 'Meddling' Comment, 'I Did Discuss It A Little Bit '

President Donald Trump insisted he did confront Vladimir Putin about the prospect of Moscow meddling in the U.S. 2020 election, following criticism of his light-hearted admonishment of his Russian counterpart at this week's G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan.

Trump smirked when he waved his finger and said to Putin "don't meddle in the election, please," after he was asked by a journalist on Friday if he would warn the Russian president against any repeated effort to interfere in the future.

When Trump made this remark, Putin, who was sitting next to him, was laughing and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was smiling, which The New York Times noted, triggered a "fresh furor over his accommodating approach to Russia."

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attend their bilateral meeting at the G20 Osaka Summit 2019, in Osaka, Japan, June,28,2019. Trump has defended his comments about Russian interference in the 2020 election. Mikhail Svetlov//Getty Images

It was the pair's first meeting since Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued a report into Russian election interference that determined that Moscow had indeed interfered in the 2016 presidential election mainly through social media campaigns.

At a press conference on Saturday, a journalist told Trump that it "seemed like you didn't mean it when you said yesterday, 'Don't meddle in our elections Mr President', and then you guys started laughing."

Trump responded: "You have to take a look at the word. I did say it."

The president went on to say that he and Putin "had a great discussion" and that Russia "would like to do trade with the United States," and praised Russia's "great product" and "great land".

"I could see trade going up with Russia, we could do fantastically well," he said before returning to the question, and adding, "I did say it, and I did discuss it a little bit after that, too," CNN reported.

A White House readout of the meeting did not mention that election interference was discussed but the pair did talk about Iran, Syria and Venezuela.

"Both leaders agreed that improved relations between the United States and Russia was in each countries' mutual interest and the interest of the world," the White House statement read.

Before he left for the G20 Summit, Trump was tight-lipped about whether he would confront Putin about election interference, telling reporters, "What I say to him is none of your business."

Heather Conley, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration, told Politico: "Whenever President Trump and President Putin meet, there is a very strong domestic backlash after that meeting."

She continued: "But, in part, it's because there's a total lack of transparency about the topics of discussion and what the agenda is."