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What To Expect At The Trump-Putin Summit


Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will sit down for a private meeting in Helsinki tomorrow. And though they don't have a stated agenda, there is already a really big elephant in the room wearing purple flowers and a hat - the release by the FBI of 12 indictments of Russian military intelligence officers. Mary Louise Kelly is the host of NPR's All Things Considered, and she's covering the summit from Helsinki. Hey, Mary Louise.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I saw on your Twitter feed that you had only run into half the journalists in the Western Hemisphere.

KELLY: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is the atmosphere there?

KELLY: Well, that was - I was trying to exit our hotel. And that entailed walking past the hotel bar, which, as you know well, if you're trying to find...


KELLY: ...A lot of journalists, you head for the hotel bar. So there are a lot of reporters in town for this and arriving all through the day today, as you can imagine, and, you know, a sense of anticipation. It's a beautiful summer day today, so we've been out watching people swimming in Helsinki Harbour. There's a big Market Square.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And lots of security.

KELLY: Yeah, security. Nothing too obtrusive yet. There's stacks of barricades that they are clearly going to put up at some point between now and tomorrow morning. And there are some protests - these are anti-Trump and anti-Putin protests.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There have been calls, Mary Louise, to stop this summit from Democrats, European leaders. Has that made any impression on the White House team so far?

KELLY: No. All indications are full steam ahead. The president still set to arrive later tonight. It's all systems go. The latest I've seen, you know, you're absolutely right. There have been calls, particularly from a group of prominent Democratic senators who are saying, look. If you're not going to press Putin on this interference in the 2016 election, call it off. And if you are going to meet with him, don't meet alone with him. There must be other Americans in the room. Again, the White House does not seem to be heeding that message. The latest schedule we've got shows that President Putin and President Trump will have a one-on-one with just interpreters present tomorrow.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have we any clarification at all about what's on the agenda? Why are these two men meeting?

KELLY: We have no clarification. This is a summit without an agenda. The White House has framed it as a getting-to-know-you summit. And if there is a real substantive policy agenda for tomorrow, nobody here seems to have seen it. But, you know, the backdrop, of course, is that in Washington on Friday, these indictments came down, a dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted on criminal charges. So the timing of that coming just days, just hours before the summit really raises the stakes for President Trump in terms of expectations for how forcefully he is going to need to confront Putin here in Helsinki tomorrow.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And the question is we may never know how forcefully he did because, apparently, they will be the only two men in the room with their interpreters.

KELLY: Only the interpreters will know.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thanks so much. That's Mary Louise Kelly of All Things Considered.

KELLY: You're welcome, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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