Trump denies seizing Putin meeting notes
President claims he did not silence interpreter, and calls it insulting to suggest he works for the Kremlin
‘It’s the most insulting thing I’ve been asked. I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less’
‘I have many meetings, nobody says anything about it, but with Putin they say: What did you talk about?’
DONALD TRUMP has rejected allegations that he tried to keep secret his conversations with Vladimir Putin by confiscating his own interpreter’s notes, and said he was “insulted” that the FBI had investigated whether he was working for the Kremlin.
Mr Trump was said to have seized the interpreter’s notes following a private meeting with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg in July 2017.
He also told the linguist not to dis- cuss with other US diplomats and security officials what was said in the meeting, the Washington Post reported.
The report came a day after it emerged that, following the firing of FBI director James Comey in May 2017, the agency opened an investigation into whether Mr Trump was working, intentionally or unintentionally, for the Kremlin, and to see whether he posed a national security risk.
Mr Trump lambasted the fresh Russia-related developments, phoning in to Fox News to call them “ridiculous”.
One of its hosts, Jeanine Pirro, a friend of the president, asked him: “Are you now, or have you ever, worked for Russia, Mr President?” The president responded: “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked.”
Denying he had sought to keep the conversations secret, he added: “I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less. I have many one-onone meetings, nobody ever says anything about it, but with Putin they say, ‘Oh what did they talk about?’ We talked about very positive things. Anybody could have listened to that meeting, that meeting is open for grabs.”
Asked if he would release conversations with Mr Putin he said “I would, I don’t care,” adding that they were “great conversations”.
Officials in Mr Trump’s administration have complained that there are few detailed records of his five meetings with Mr Putin, including one in Helsinki last summer that lasted two hours. That compares with copious public notes of meetings between previous presidents and Russian leaders.
The officials said they were being left in the dark as to how to deal with Russia, and expressed fears Mr Trump may be left open to manipulation by Mr Putin.
However, allies of Mr Trump suggested he had sought to restrict notes of his conversations with leaders because his own officials kept leaking them, adding he could establish closer relationships with people if they knew conversations would remain private.
The suggestion that the interpreter, who has not been named, had been told to keep quiet emerged after officials from the State Department and National Security Council approached him to find out more about what had been said. The interpreter told them his notes had been taken and he was not allowed to discuss the meeting.
Rex Tillerson, then Mr Trump’s secretary of state, was also at the Hamburg meeting. He said much of it focused on Syria but did not give a detailed account to other officials. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the suggestion that Mr Trump had sought to silence an interpreter was “so outrageously inaccurate it doesn’t even warrant a response”.
The news came as the government shutdown extended to a 23rd day with a Republican close to Mr Trump saying the president was not giving in on his demands for $5.7 billion (£4.4billion) for a wall along the Us-mexico border.
Lindsey Graham said he encouraged Mr Trump to reopen government for a period of weeks to try to negotiate a deal with Democrats, but that Mr Trump wanted a deal first. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, insists that Mr Trump end the shutdown first. “What is [Mr Tump] supposed to do? Just give in? He’s not going to give in,” Mr Graham said.
Demonstrators hold up illuminated letters that spell out ‘Treason’ while protesting outside the White House during the partial government shutdown in Washington. The shutdown, over funding for a Us-mexico wall, has now been running for 23 days