Fifa World Cup: Vladimir Putin gives Donald Trump soccer ball at Helsinki summit – but US secret service makes the save

Republican Senator Lyndsey Graham says gift from Russian president at Finland meeting should be checked for listening devices and never allowed in the White House

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2018, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2018, 4:53pm

Donald Trump has been pretty complimentary to Russia lately, including congratulating them in a tweet about hosting such a successful World Cup – and his kind words earned him the gift of an official tournament football from Vladimir Putin.

Used during all the matches at Russia 2018, which came to a conclusion with France’s victory in last Sunday’s final, the Russian president handed over the Adidas ball to his US counterpart, perhaps in a bid to lighten the mood at their post-summit news conference in Helsinki, Finland.

Trump and Putin had faced a bit of a grilling from journalists in the presidential palace, and a much bigger backlash from those watching back home, with a barrage of questions regarding the Kremlin’s interference in Trump’s 2016 election victory.

And Putin awkwardly changed the subject when asked whether the ball is “in the Russian court” regarding cooperative efforts in the Syrian war.

“Speaking about having the ball in our court in Syria, President Trump has just mentioned that we’ve successfully concluded the football World Cup,” Putin said.

“Speaking of football, actually, Mr President, I will give the ball to you and now the ball is in your court. All the more as the United States will host the World Cup in 2026.”

Putin then handed over the ball to Trump at neighbouring podium.

“That’s very nice, that will go to my son Barron. In fact, Melania, there you go,” said Trump, tossing the ball down to US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman in the front row, who passed it along to the First Lady.

Trump also returned the compliment to Putin and said he hoped the United States would put on an equally successful tournament when they host the World Cup with Canada and Mexico in eight years’ time.

The two leaders got their kicks from the exchange but figures in Washington – from the left and right – where as distrusting of the gesture as they had been of Putin’s denials of Russian meddling.

“If it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House,” Republican Senator Lyndsey Graham tweeted.

Fifa World Cup final: France rain on Vladimir Putin’s parade as Emmanuel Macron gets last laugh at trophy presentation

A US Secret Service agent then ran the ball through a security scanner outside the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, according to an NBC journalist.

“He didn’t smile when I joked about it,” Bill Neely, chief global correspondent at NBC News, wrote on Twitter describing the apparent incident with the agent.

It didn’t take long for the jokes to start flying from television personalities in the US. Stylist Tabatha Coffey wrote: “So Trump got a soccer ball and Putin got America?”

Comedian Stephen Colbert, host of “The Late Show”, also weighed in on Monday night.

“It’s nice gift, although I think Putin still has a set of Trump’s balls,” Colbert joked.