Dems demand access to interpreters at Trump's meetings with Putin

Dems demand access to interpreters at Trump's meetings with Putin


By:  Tal Axelrod
The Hill

A pair of key Senate Democrats are demanding access to interpreters present for all of President Trump's meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin since he took office.

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, respectively, sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday requesting that the interpreters be made available for congressional interviews.

“In light of the continuing level of secrecy shrouding your interactions with the Russian leader, we insist that the interpreters for these interactions, especially the individual who interpreted for your meeting with President Putin in Helsinki, be made immediately available for interviews with the relevant committees in Congress,” they wrote.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

The letter comes as the White House defends itself against renewed scrutiny of Trump’s possible ties to Moscow. 

The Washington Post reported last week that Trump concealed details about encounters with Putin from officials in his administration on multiple occasions and confiscated notes on one occasion from his own interpreter, directing him not to discuss the meeting with others. 

The New York Times also reported last week that Trump’s abrupt firing of former FBI Director James Comey in 2017 caused such concern among law enforcement that officials began probing if Trump was secretly carrying out anti-American agendas on behalf of Russia.

“Your insistence on secrecy related to these interactions, even with your own staff, is alarming, unprecedented, and could be in violation of the Presidential Records Act and Federal Records Act,” Menendez and Reed told Trump in their letter Wednesday.

“[W]e believe it to be in the national security interests of the United States that any record of these conversations be preserved and immediately provided to Congress.” 

The White House has regularly argued that Trump has taken a tougher stance on Russia than some of his predecessors.

The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Kremlin officials and suggested it may withdraw from a landmark nuclear pact.

But the president has often adopted flattering rhetoric toward Putin, further alarming some lawmakers on Capitol Hill amid probes into ties between his campaign and Russia in 2016.

The president has maintained there was no collusion during the 2016 race and slammed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into such claims as a “witch hunt.”