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Top House committees are seeking interviews with anyone who 'in any way listened in on' Trump-Putin meetings, including translators

Key Points
  • Democratic leaders of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees request that the administration identify and make available anyone who participated in, attended or "in any way listened in on" Trump's in-person and telephone meetings with Putin.
  • It is highly unusual for translators to be hauled in front of Congress, although calls for Democrats to do just that have risen amid an also extraordinary level of secrecy about the president's conversations with Putin.
President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they meet in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Three powerful House committees are seeking interviews with anyone who might have information about what has been discussed between President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin following reports that the president has sought to conceal the details of those communications from the public and members of his administration.

In a letter to White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney dated Monday, the Democratic leaders of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees requested that the administration identify and make available anyone who participated in, attended or "in any way listened in on" Trump's in-person and telephone meetings with Putin.

Those staff members could include "linguists, translators, or interpreters," wrote the three chairmen, including Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who leads the Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who leads the Oversight Committee.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is highly unusual for translators to be hauled in front of Congress, although calls for Democrats to do just that have risen amid an also out-of-the-ordinary level of secrecy about the president's conversations with Putin.

Trump has been tight-lipped about what has been discussed at his meetings with Putin, fueling criticism at a time when his campaign remains under investigation by the Department of Justice.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is thought to be nearing the conclusion of his inquiry into "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump." That investigation has already resulted in a number of convictions and guilty pleas, including from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security advisor Mike Flynn.

Expanding investigation

The Democrats, who requested related documents last month, noted Monday that they were "expanding our investigation" because the White House did not respond to that request.

In January, The Washington Post reported that Trump on at least one occasion took the notes of one of his translators and asked the person to not disclose details about his meeting with other administration officials.

"These allegations, if true, raise profound counterintelligence and foreign policy concerns, especially in light of Russia's ongoing active measures campaign to improperly influence American elections," the three Democrats wrote.

They wrote that the president's reported actions threatened to undermine the State Department's "ability to develop and execute foreign policy that advances our national interests" and potentially violated federal record-keeping laws.

In addition to asking the White House to make staff available, the committee chairs also asked for the White House to turn over "complete and unredacted" copies of a broad range of documents.

The documents include any paperwork related to meetings between Trump and Putin, concerning written communication between the two, and any guidance for White House personnel with regard to the retention of records related to Trump's meetings with foreign leaders.

Trump and Putin have met five times since Trump was elected, according to a New York Times tally. The two chat on the phone "regularly, " Putin said last year.