US Democrats are working to expose Trump's private conversations with Putin

US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Two leading Democrats in the US Congress are working with the House General Counsel to find the best ways to legally force the Trump administration to hand over information about Donald Trump’s private discussions with Vladimir Putin.
  • The July sit-down in Helsinki was reportedly the first time US and Russian presidents have met alone, prompting former CIA director John Brennan and others to criticise the meeting.
  • The Trump administration is likely to fight any efforts to compel more disclosure.

Democrats are now publicly exploring legal options to compel President Donald Trump to disclose information about his private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, according to Politico.

Any such moves will likely be met with fierce opposition from the Trump administration, judging by Trump’s efforts already to keep the information private.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, told Politico they’re working with House General Counsel Douglas Letter to plan how to force the administration to reveal documents or other information about the talks.

“I had a meeting with the general counsel to discuss this and determine the best way to find out what took place in those private meetings – whether it’s by seeking the interpreter’s testimony, the interpreter’s notes, or other means,” Schiff told Politico.

The July meeting in Helsinki was reportedly the first time in history presidents from the US and Russia have met alone. After the one-on-one, Trump indicated at a press conference that he believes Russia over the US intelligence community when it comes to the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 US election.

At the time, ex-CIA director John Brennan and some Republicans slammed the private meeting and Trump’s performance at the ensuing media event.

Last month, the Washington Post published a bombshell report that said Trump has gone to “extraordinary lengths” to conceal details of his conversations with Putin from senior officials in his administration. The report renewed calls for his translator,Marina Gross, to testify before lawmakers. White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said in response that Trump hid the details to avoid leaks.

“I’m not saying that I’m in favour of interpreters turning over all their notes, but I do think that it shouldn’t be up to the president to hide the notes,” Engel told Politico.

The Post story prompted Democratic lawmakers to explore their legal options.

“We are concerned about it because it’s been many months since Putin and Trump met in Helsinki, and we still have no idea what they talked about,” Engel said. “That lack of transparency is troubling … All we want is for the American people to know the truth. I’m not out at all to get the president. I’m out to get the truth.”

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