A picture taken on June 27, 2017 shows a T-shirt featuring the U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin with a sign "We Love Russia" on sale at a souvenir shop in Saint Petersburg. / AFP / Mladen ANTONOV
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President Donald Trump's first face-to-face meeting with President Vladimir Putin Friday will be brimming with global intrigue, but the White House says there's "no specific agenda".Any outward sign of bonhomie between Trump and Putin would be immediately seized upon by the president's critics and Russia hawks eager to show he's cozying up to the Russian leader.ELECTION HACKINGTrump has been reluctant to publicly and directly acknowledge Russia's role in meddling in the U.S. election, out of apparent concern it undermines the legitimacy of his win.U.S. officials say Russia tried to hack election systems in 21 states and to sway the election for Trump, a level of interference in the U.S. political system that security experts say represents a top-level threat that should command a forceful response from the U.S. Putin has denied all this.There are no indications Trump plans to raise Russia's meddling at the meeting. Given that Russia has taken neither of those steps, easing sanctions would require a major reversal by Trump and would infuriate Russia hawks in both parties in the U.S. In fact, Congress has been pushing to increase sanctions on Russia and make them harder for Trump to lift.
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