WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today sent a letter to the White House requesting confirmation that President Trump properly preserved all records of his communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The senators also requested that the White House permit Congress to interview the interpreters present at President Trump’s meetings with Putin.
The letter comes after news reports revealed the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation to determine if President Trump could be directly or inadvertently working on behalf of Russia, as well as reports that President Trump confiscated his own interpreter’s notes after meeting with Putin and directed the interpreter not to share key details of their conversation with anyone, including high-ranking officials in his own administration. Alarmed by this break from presidential protocol that seems designed to shield President Trump’s communications and interactions with Mr. Putin from scrutiny, the Senators wrote: “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.”
The Senators note that destroying a detailed record of the meeting could harm U.S. national security and benefit Russian interests by allowing Russian intelligence to control the narrative around the meeting.
“We 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 Senators added. “Moreover, it is critical that the American people, through their representatives, understand what has transpired during your interactions with Vladimir Putin.”
The text of the letter can be found here and below:
Dear Mr. President:
We seek your immediate confirmation that you have preserved all records, including notes, transcripts, documents, and communications related to any meetings, telephone calls, or any other interaction that you have had with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin since being sworn into office in January 2017, and we call upon you to preserve all such records going forward. According to recent news reports, you have confiscated interpreters’ notes and taken other steps to conceal the content of your conversations with the Russian leader. 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. In light of reports on January 11, 2019 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a counterintelligence investigation into your ties with the Russian Federation, we 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.
Moreover, it is critical that the American people, through their representatives, understand what has transpired during your interactions with Vladimir Putin. 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.