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David Gergen: 'What the hell is Donald Trump's obsession with Vladimir Putin?

CNN's political commentator David Gergen said reports of an undisclosed meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin just aroused suspicions about the president's "obsession" with Putin. (Image Source: YouTube screenshot)

CNN political commentator David Gergen said a report Tuesday detailing a second previously undisclosed meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin just "arouses more suspicion" about the "obsession" the president has with Russians. He made the comments Tuesday on Anderson Cooper's show.

"The White House is saying that it is not merely perfectly normal," said Cooper, "it is part of a president's duties to interact with world leaders, adding that it was 'just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner.' I mean if it was an hour long as it's being reported, that doesn't seem like a brief conversation. And there's no official government record, and they wouldn't even mention it."

"It is the president's duty to circulate and to meet foreign leaders in an informal way," Gergen said. "But it's highly inappropriate for a president to sit down in a way Donald Trump did with Putin.

"If the president had brought his own interpreter so that there were two people there," he continued, "one an American, one a Russian interpreting, you had a record on the American, and if the White House had then disclosed it, I think we would be saluting the president for having yet another hour with Putin."

"But the way in which he did it, leaving the Russian interpreter," Gergen added, "I can't remember a time when a new American president first meeting has allowed the interpreter from the other side, from the Russian side to be the only person in the room."

"But it just does not happen," he continued, "it is abnormal, and it is not appropriate for his duty, and then not to disclose it only arouses further suspicions about what the hell is Donald Trump's obsession with Vladimir Putin and why won't he be straight forward about it?"

"And David," Cooper asked, "is it normal not to have a readout of it for the American people?"

"Yes, it's abnormal," Gergen responded. "It, well, Anderson, if they want to have a very private conversation with interpreters there with the appropriate people in the room, that's regularly done, and you don't have a readout of everything. You know sometimes diplomacy is best conducted behind doors."

"But you protect yourself as president by having other people with you who are from the American side and are looking after our interests and not letting the Russians take advantage of a new president."

CNN said a White House official told them the meeting lasted "nearly an hour" during a dinner at the G20 economic summit, but later accounts said it was much more brief.

Trump assailed the reporting from his social media account saying, "Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is 'sick.' All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!"

Gergen is a former presidential adviser who served under Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

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