Trump de­nies seiz­ing Putin meet­ing notes

Pres­i­dent claims he did not si­lence in­ter­preter, and calls it in­sult­ing to sug­gest he works for the Krem­lin

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Nick Allen in Wash­ing­ton

‘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

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