Democrats want notes from Trump-Putin talk
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.