(Slate) -- We may never know exactly what was said in the much-anticipated meeting on Friday between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is famously taciturn, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is unreliable, the two presidents have their agendas, and there were no official note-takers unless you count the translators, whose jottings rarely leak.
Still, a few observations can be drawn from the reports put out so far. First, Putin emerged as the winner. At a press briefing after the meeting, Tillerson said that Trump did raise—more than once—the charge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. However, Lavrov told reporters that Trump accepted Putin’s denial. Perhaps Lavrov was exaggerating, but Tillerson did say the two presidents agreed to “move forward” and not “re-litigate the past”—which amounts to the same thing.
In other words, Putin did not, and apparently will not, pay any price for his information-warfare campaign against American democracy. In fact, Tillerson said that Trump merely “noted” the domestic concerns about the charges, which could prove “a substantial hindrance” to future Russian–American relations.
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