Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide the panel with the translator’s notes and other materials from President Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The senators have requested any cable traffic, memos, notes and policy directives related to the July summit, when Trump and Putin met privately for more than two hours with only translators present. The White House has not provided information on what was said, and even Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, has said he does not know what happened in the room.
In a letter sent to the State Department Friday morning, the Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said the situation requires “urgent congressional oversight.”
“Russian officials have taken advantage of the lack of communication by the White House to circulate their own, possibly false, readouts of what occurred in this private meeting,” the senators wrote.
Trump drew widespread criticism from Republican and Democratic leaders for his performance in Helsinki on July 16. At a joint press conference with Putin, Trump spoke favorably of the Russian leader and denied U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Trump’s statements fueled calls from Democrats for testimony from the American translator who was in the private meeting. Republicans shot down the idea and in the House blocked a Democratic request to issue a subpoena.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, said seeking the translator’s testimony “does not seem to be to me the appropriate place for us to go.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on July 18 said they had not been able to find a precedent for an interpreter being called to testify.