Administration officials knew that Mr. Trump’s much-anticipated meeting with Mr. Putin was risky and in some ways a no-win situation. The tangle of investigations into his campaign’s possible dealings with Russia raised the stakes and created a damaging backdrop for Mr. Trump, while Mr. Putin’s well-earned reputation for outfoxing and manipulating adversaries suggested that he would stage manage the meeting for maximum advantage, making himself appear to have the upper hand.
On Sunday, it appeared that Mr. Putin had to some degree succeeded in doing just that, after Mr. Trump’s refusal to answer questions about the encounter essentially ceded the narrative to Mr. Putin.
Mr. Trump broke with tradition and declined to hold a news conference at the end of the G-20 summit meeting, instead sending three top officials to brief a small group of reporters on Air Force One as he was returning on Saturday to Washington. None of them would address the claims of Mr. Putin and Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, that Mr. Trump had seemed satisfied with Mr. Putin’s denial of involvement in the hacking.