House Democrats want to know what Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin talk about.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Committee on Oversight sent letters Monday to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo requesting “documents from and interviews with personnel of the White House, Executive Office of the President, and Department of State” relating to communications between Trump and Putin.
“According to media reports, President Trump, on multiple occasions, appears to have taken steps to conceal the details of his communications with President Putin from other administration officials, Congress, and the American people,” chairmen Adam Schiff, Elliot Engel and Elijah Cummings wrote. “The President reportedly seized notes pertaining to at least one meeting held with President Putin and directed at least one American interpreter not to discuss the substance of communications with President Putin with other federal officials.”
The ranking Democrats said they had already written to the Trump administration seeking detail on communications between the two leaders, but have not heard back.
“On February 21, 2019, we wrote a joint letter to the White House requesting basic information about whether the President in fact destroyed records relating to his conversations with President Putin—in violation of the Presidential Records Act—or if he did not, where those records are currently located,” the letter from the Democrats stated. “The White House failed to provide any response to our inquiry. As a result, we are now expanding our investigation.”
The White House and the Trump Organization find themselves suddenly besieged by investigations by Democrats in the House, who regained their majority there in the 2018 midterm elections. On Monday, the House Judiciary sent out a request for documents to 81 individuals and entities that might shed light on criminal wrongdoing on the part of the president.
Monday’s barrage of requests from House Democrats comes as special counsel Robert Mueller is said to be nearing the end of his investigation into potentially illegal ties between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government. Since Mueller’s appointment, Trump has repeatedly assured the country that there was “no collusion” with Putin’s government. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to help Trump become president.
In January, the Washington Post reported that Trump has taken extraordinary measures to keep details of his conversations with Putin from becoming public, including confiscating the notes taken by his own interpreter. Trump also told the interpreter not to discuss the substance of the conversation between the two leaders.
“Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight over the Department and the White House to determine, among other things, the impact of those communications on U.S. foreign policy, whether federal officials, including President Trump, have acted in the national interest, and whether the applicable laws, regulations, and agency procedures with respect to diplomatic communications with President Putin and other foreign leaders have been complied with and remain sufficient,” the letter from the chairmen read.
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