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Jakarta Post

US Democrats demand details of Trump-Putin talks from White House

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Washington, United States   /   Tue, March 5, 2019   /   08:24 am
US Democrats demand details of Trump-Putin talks from White House US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin smile as they attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. The US and Russian leaders opened an historic summit in Helsinki, with Donald Trump promising an (AFP/Yuri Kadobnov)

Senior US Democrats on Monday demanded the White House provide details of communications between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, after reports that such information was destroyed or hidden.

The chairmen of three US House committees -- on intelligence, foreign affairs, and oversight -- said they are seeking information about the substance of the leaders' conversations, any notes or documents related to the talks, and whether Trump or anyone acting on his behalf concealed or misrepresented the substance of the communications.

In their letter to White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, the Democratic trio warned that destruction, manipulation or withholding of such documents would be "in direct contravention of federal laws," which require that presidents and other officials preserve such materials.

"According to media reports, President Trump, on multiple occasions, appears to have taken steps to conceal the details of his communications with President Putin from other administration officials, Congress, and the American people," committee chairmen Adam Schiff, Elliot Engel and Elijah Cummings wrote in a statement.

Trump fueled suspicions last year about his ties with Russia when, in a sharp break with standard diplomatic practice, he dismissed top aides for two hours of talks with Putin during their first formal summit, in Helsinki.

Only one American remained in the room at that encounter -- Marina Gross, an interpreter provided by the State Department.

House Democrats last year unsuccessfully sought to force Gross to testify about the summit, saying Trump's extraordinary actions required extraordinary measures in turn.

The three chairmen on Monday cited reports that Trump "seized notes pertaining to at least one meeting he held with President Putin" and directed an interpreter to not discuss with other US officials the substance of the communications.

They are requiring all documents related to the communications be provided by March 15.

Democrats seized control of the US House in early January. On February 21, the three chairmen wrote Mulvaney, requesting "basic information" about whether Trump destroyed records, and if not, where those records are.

"The White House failed to provide any response to our inquiry. As a result, we are now expanding our investigation."

There is no guarantee that the congressional requests for documents will be met. Last year, the administration withheld thousands of documents related to Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who had previously worked in the White House.