WASHINGTON — International trade, missiles and geopolitics were on the agenda at the Group of 20 economic summit on Friday. But to President Trump, the real chatter was about the 2016 presidential election in the United States — or, specifically, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
In the middle of one of the most important annual summits for world leaders — and his first — Mr. Trump made time to tweet that Mr. Podesta didn’t hand over a computer server to the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. as part of the federal investigation into the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails.
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The server was never in Mr. Podesta’s possession, and at first, it appeared that perhaps only Mr. Trump was publicly talking about it.
That is, until Mr. Podesta chimed in.
In a series of pit stops during a cross-country road trip with his wife, Mr. Podesta tweeted back to call Mr. Trump a “whack job” and to tell him to “get a grip” and “get your head in the game.” Mr. Podesta reminded Mr. Trump that he was representing the United States at the forum in Hamburg, Germany, for the leaders of the world’s largest economies.
“Really? Everyone?” Mr. Podesta wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post later Friday from Morehead, Ky. “I’ve been at my share of global summits, so I sort of doubt that.”
If the White House was hoping to avoid bringing attention to ongoing Washington investigations into whether Mr. Trump’s associates colluded with Moscow, the president’s tweet thrust the saga back into spotlight. It was the latest example of his history of writing incendiary tweets that seize attention.
American intelligence officials have said that Mr. Podesta’s emails were hacked and stolen by the Russians and released to help Mr. Trump win the presidency. The D.N.C.’s emails were also stolen in a separate intrusion during the 2016 campaign.
The F.B.I. has been investigating the hacks and possible coordination between Russia and Mr. Trump’s associates since last summer, a probe that has dogged his presidency and, in doing so, infuriated the commander-in-chief.
Mr. Trump has been reluctant to accept Russia’s role in the hacks, and on Thursday said “nobody really knows for sure” if Moscow was involved. And some Republicans have focused on the D.N.C.’s refusal to share its computer server with the F.B.I. In another tweet on Friday, Mr. Podesta reminded Mr. Trump that he had nothing to do with the D.N.C.
Mr. Trump’s tweet on Friday came hours before his first meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a much-anticipated encounter after the American leader had for months praised the longtime adversary of the United States.
Is it possible that Mr. Podesta would come up in the more than two-hour conversation between the two leaders? Sure. Mr. Podesta was a victim of the Russian hacks, which Putin again denied responsibility for on Friday. Mr. Trump raised the issue of the Russian meddling during the meeting, and Mr. Putin asked for evidence of Russia’s involvement.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said the two countries may not agree on who was behind the American election meddling, but they should try to “move forward.”
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