Trump holds calls with Putin, leaders from Europe and Asia

President Trump called Russian President Vladi­mir Putin on Saturday in hopes of cultivating “a great relationship,” one in a series of telephone conversations with world leaders as he develops a personal rapport with the heads of several traditional U.S. allies.

Trump’s conversation with Putin, which began about noon Eastern time, comes as the president faces pressure to maintain sanctions against Moscow. He is reaching out to repair the U.S.-Russian relationship, which has been badly strained by the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin ordered systematic hacking of Democratic emails to tip the presidential election in Trump’s favor.

Trump spoke with Putin from behind his desk in the Oval Office, which was stacked high with papers and a glass of soda. The president was flanked by Vice President Pence, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer.

Trump began the day with a call to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss security and trade issues between the two countries and the mutual threat posed by North Korea.

“President Trump affirmed the iron-clad U.S. commitment to ensuring the security of Japan,” a White House statement said. It continued, “President Trump and Prime Minister Abe said they would consult and cooperate on the

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