House Oversight demands information about Trump-Putin conversations buried by White House

Vox / YouTube Trump and Putin A surreal moment...
Vox / YouTube

A trio of House committees have already asked once to review any notes or transcripts of a conversation between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that took place in 2017 during the Hamburg G20 Summit. Now the House Oversight Committee has sent a follow-up letter to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney demanding an interview with the White House official in charge of documenting such interactions under the Presidential Records Act.

“I am writing to request an explanation for why the White House has failed to answer the questions raised in a letter I sent more than three months ago seeking information about troubling reports that President Donald Trump may have violated the Presidential Records Act by confiscating and destroying documents to keep secret the details of his meetings with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin,” Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings wrote Monday to Mulvaney. “The Presidential Records Act is at the core of the Oversight Committee’s legislative and oversight jurisdiction, and I had hoped that the White House would cooperate voluntarily with this inquiry.”

Cummings repeated initial requests from February about whether Trump destroyed or altered the notes of an interpreter at a July 7, 2017 meeting with Putin, what steps were take to preserve the notes, where the interpreter’s not are now, and whether the State Department has a copy of those notes. Cummings also inquired more broadly about whether any Trump Administration official has “any record of any meeting or call” between Trump and Putin.

Cummings wants those answers by July 8 in addition to a transcribed interview with the Director of the White House Office of Records Management or another “competent” official who can speak to the question of the Trump Administration’s adherence to the records act.

Cummings did mention threaten to subpoena the information in the letter.

Trump reportedly confiscated notes taken by the interpreter at the July 2017 meeting with Putin in Hamburg. At the time, top government officials were unable to obtain readouts of what transpired in the meeting. The Washington Post reports that it’s “unclear” whether that lapse has been corrected. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the House Foreign Affairs Committee this year that Putin vastly outmaneuvered Trump in the Hamburg meeting. Trump also had a second conversation with Putin at the Hamburg G20 without any U.S. officials or interpreters present.

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