Photo: AFP/Brendan Smialowski

A long-planned meeting between the US and Russian presidents was called off suddenly on Thursday, shortly after Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump business dealings with Russia.

Minutes after telling reporters at the White House that the meeting was still on, Trump made the announcement via Twitter while traveling to the Group of Twenty summit in Argentina.

While Trump cited the seizure by Russia of Ukrainian ships in his tweet, the timing of his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s guilty plea led to speculation that it was planned to coincide with the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Similar speculation swirled ahead of Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki last July, which came days after the chief investigator in the Russia probe, special counsel Robert Mueller, issued indictments of 12 Russians for allegedly interfering in US politics.

Answering questions on the White House lawn before boarding a helicopter, Trump dismissed Cohen as a liar.

“Even if he was right, it doesn’t matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign … I was running my business …  Michael Cohen is lying and he’s trying to get a reduced sentence,” Trump said.

At the same time, Trump expressed optimism that he would get to meet with Putin before he left Buenos Aires.

“I probably will be meeting with President Putin. We haven’t terminated that meeting. I was thinking about it. But we haven’t. They’d like to have it I think it’s a very good time to have the meeting.

“I’m getting a full report on the plane as to what happened with respect to” the Ukraine ship seizure.

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