(seeder not working)
Q General McMaster, Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov walked out of that bilat yesterday and went out, and they told people that President Trump had accepted their denial of election interference. Is that true?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Let me just say, first of all, I think President Trump handled the meeting brilliantly, okay? It was very clear what started as a 30-minute meeting — and President Trump made it very clear in addressing the issues around the election.After a very substantive discussion on this, they reached an agreement that they would start a cyber unit to make sure that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, that they would work on cybersecurity together. And President Trump focused the conversation on Syria and the Ukraine and North Korea.
And I think it’s very important that President Trump had a very substantive dialogue with his counterpart on this. And it is very clear that there are many issues we need to open a dialogue on. And I think President Trump handled it brilliantly.
Q General McMaster, can you address not the question of how President Trump handled it, but the question of how Putin and Lavrov have handled it. What are you going to do about it? I mean, it’s not true, is it, that President Trump accepted Putin’s statement?
(McMaster did not answer - went on with WH message of we are going to now ignore Russian interference in our election and move forward to having a joint cybersecurity team.)
Q But you have the President of another country making a statement about the President of the United States. Do you not want to respond to that and correct the record if it is wrong?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: You know, we’re not going to make comments about what other people say. President Trump will be happy to make statements himself about that. But President Trump handled himself brilliantly. It was very clear he made his position felt. And after very substantive dialogue on this, they agreed to move on to other discussions. And I think it’s very clear that they’ve opened a dialogue, that it’s important to have a dialogue.
As we’ve said, they focused on a ceasefire on Syria, focused on making sure that we have a cyber unit to make sure that Russia and nobody else interferes in any democratic elections. And we focused on the issue of North Korea, which is a major concern to us and all our other allies.
Q Why did you decide to raise it anyway, though? There seemed to be a debate, sort of, in the days leading up to the meeting: “Would he raise it? Would he not raise it?” Why did he decide to sort of raise it at all? Was that essential, do you think, to start that dialogue? Or why did he decide
(Mnuchin: did not answer the question - just more Trump was strong meme)
Q How do you develop an atmosphere of trust and working together on all these important issues that you just laid out when the two sides can’t even agree on what happened in that conversation in the first face-to-face meeting? I mean —
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I think it’s very clear that there’s lots of things that we need to work on with them. And there’s a commitment to move forward, work on issues that we can work on together. And I think the Syria ceasefire is a major, major success. If we can have a ceasefire and focus on how we work on Syria, and build a cyber unit, and be committed to make sure that nobody ever interferes in democratic elections again, that is a major accomplishment that President Trump is focused on.