Democrats want notes from Trump-Putin talk

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WORLD / NATION / POLITICS - BY JU­LIAN E. BARNES AND MATTHEW ROSENBERG NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SER­VICE

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ef­forts to hide his con­ver­sa­tions with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia and new de­tails about the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his ties to Moscow have in­ten­si­fied de­bate over his re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia, adding fuel to Democrats’ bud­ding in­ves­ti­ga­tions of his pres­i­dency and po­ten­tially set­ting up a clash be­tween the White House and Con­gress.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who now leads the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee as part of the new Demo­cratic House ma­jor­ity, im­plored his Repub­li­can col­leagues Sun­day to sup­port his ef­fort to ob­tain notes or tes­ti­mony from the in­ter­preter in one of the pri­vate meet­ings be­tween Trump and Putin.

“Will they join us now?” Schiff wrote on Twit­ter. “Shouldn’t we find out whether our pres­i­dent is re­ally putting ‘Amer­ica first?’”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pears un­likely to ac­qui­esce to such a de­mand with­out a fight.

Trump has re­peat­edly with­held de­tails of his con­ver­sa­tions with Putin, ac­cord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials, a prac­tice that has left of­fi­cials blind to the dy­namic be­tween the two lead­ers and in­ten­si­fied ques­tions within the ad­min­is­tra­tion over the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions.

That de­vel­op­ment, first re­ported by The Wash­ing­ton Post, fol­lowed a re­port in The New York Times that the FBI had ear­lier be­gun a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Trump to see whether he had been in­flu­enced by Rus­sia when he fired James Comey as FBI di­rec­tor in 2017.

On Sun­day, con­gres­sional Democrats said the steps Trump took to keep his con­ver­sa­tions se­cret brought forth un­com­fort­able ques­tions about the re­la­tions be­tween the two men and why the U.S. pres­i­dent echoed some of Putin’s po­si­tions.

“Why is he so chummy with Vladimir Putin, this man who is a for­mer KGB agent, never been a friend to the United States, in­vaded our al­lies, threat­ens us around the world and tries his damnedest to un­der­mine our elec­tions?” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Why is this Pres­i­dent Trump’s best buddy? I don’t get it.”

Trump went so far as to take the notes from the in­ter­preter who worked with him dur­ing a pri­vate meet­ing with Putin at the 2017 Group of 20 meet­ing in Ham­burg, Ger­many.

A for­mer se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said a num­ber of top fig­ures in the ad­min­is­tra­tion sought in the hours and days after the meet­ing to find out de­tails of what Trump and Putin had dis­cussed. But Trump waved off their queries, leav­ing the of­fi­cials to rely solely on a brief read­out that Rex Tiller­son, the sec­re­tary of state at the time, had pro­vided to the news me­dia, ac­cord­ing to the for­mer of­fi­cial.

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