WASHINGTON — Five weeks after President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Senate Democrats have formally requested a raft of materials related to the meeting including the interpreter’s notes from the Trump-Putin one-on-one session.
The two sat down with only one interpreter on each side, and administration officials haven’t said since whether they know exactly what was discussed behind closed doors.
“Presidents have a prerogative to choose who’s in meetings and who’s not. I’m confident you’ve had one-on-one meetings in your life as well,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a late July hearing, at which he said, “I think I have a pretty complete understanding of what took place.”
The ranking member of the committee, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and committee member Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) sent a letter to Pompeo today requesting all documentation related to that meeting.
Since the hearing, they wrote, “our questions over what commitments President Trump made on behalf of the United States during the private, two-hour meeting remain unanswered.”
“The public press conference in which the president called the United States ‘foolish’ and praised Putin’s election meddling denial as ‘strong and powerful’ continues to be the only firsthand, U.S. account the American people have of what was addressed. As you know, Russian officials have taken advantage of the lack of communication by the White House to circulate their own, possibly false, readouts of what occurred in this private meeting,” they continued, adding that their “concern about this meeting is heightened by the ongoing Special Counsel investigation into potential ties between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russian intelligence operatives and others who sought to interfere in our democratic process.”
“There is an urgent need to address this matter given the continued interference by Russia in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. Further, recent attacks on Republican-aligned groups demonstrate clearly that this is not a partisan issue.”
Menendez and Shaheen asked that the committee be given “relevant materials including all classified and unclassified cable traffic, memoranda of conversations, interpreter’s notes and policy directives related to the meeting, and if no such documents exist, to confirm so.”
They stressed that they need the documents because “this situation requires urgent congressional oversight particularly in light of any potential U.S. commitments resulting from the meeting and to understand and address any Russian misinformation related to the meeting.”