President Donald Trump on Thursday cancelled his planned formal talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit. Shortly afterward, though, he also cancelled formal meetings with the leaders of Turkey and South Korea, which were downgraded to informal talks.
After news broke that his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s potential real estate deal in Russia in 2016, Trump announced that he’d be nixing his meeting with Putin — apparently taking the Kremlin by surprise.
Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2018
Trump cited the military dispute between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov, though that situation has unfolded over several days. Minutes before announcing the cancellation of his Putin meeting on Twitter, in fact, Trump told reporters outside the White House, “I probably will be meeting with President Putin.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One while en-route to the to the G-20 summit in Argentina, said Trump made his decision “in the last half hour” after conferring with chief of staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, the latter over the phone.
According to a pool report, “shortly after take-off at 11:50 a.m.,” Sanders “confirmed there would be a trilateral … towards the end of the Trump/Abe talks with Indian PM Modi. She said other meetings, mentioning Erdogan specifically, will be pull-asides not formal bilaterals.”
And the Associated Press reported that in addition to downgrading his talks with Erdogan from a formal meeting to an informal pull-aside meeting, the same downgrade would apply to his talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Sanders later objected to describing the meetings as “cancelled.”
To be clear – the meetings with S. Korea and Turkey are still on the schedule and have not been canceled. https://t.co/Oo3QDSRLtU
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 29, 2018
This post has been updated.