White House

Democrats dig for interpreter notes, policy directives on Trump-Putin summit

Two Democratic senators are turning up the pressure on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to explain what promises President Donald Trump may have made to Russian leader Vladimir Putin during their two-hour private meeting last month in Helsinki, Finland.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wants Pompeo to provide to the committee a “clear and complete description” of any commitments Trump made and provide the committee any relevant classified and unclassified cable traffic, interpreter notes and policy directives related to the meeting.

“As you know, 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,” Menendez wrote.

Menendez is joined on the letter by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who is known for her vocal opposition to Putin and recently was the target of hacking attacks that she said came from Russia.

The two senators said their concerns about the Helsinki summit were heightened by the ongoing Special Counsel investigation into potential ties between the 2016 Presidential campaign.

At a committee hearing last month, Menendez grilled Pompeo for details about the two-hour meeting, which occurred with only translators present. Typically, senior staff and subject-matter experts sit in on presidential summit meetings.

“I really don’t believe, Mr. Secretary, you know what happened during the president’s two-plus hours of conversation with President Putin and I really don’t know much more about the summit after sitting here for three hours than I did before,” Menendez told Pompeo at the July 25 hearing.

Pompeo insisted that Trump was firm and clear about U.S. positions with Putin, but dodged questions about specific details, repeatedly insisting that Trump had the right to private meetings.

“It’s not for me to disclose the content of those conversations,” Pompeo said.

In their letter, Menendez and Shaheen said if no documents exists, then Pompeo needs to provide a detailed account of any commitments Trump may have made and investigate assertions by Russian officials claiming Trump made promises on U.S. policy in Syria and Ukraine.

“We make this request only as a direct result of the extraordinary and, to our knowledge, unprecedented circumstances of President Trump’s two hour, one-on-one meeting with a leader identified as a threat to the United States by President Trump’s own National Security Strategy,” Menendez and Shaheen wrote.

During the summit in Helsinki, a reporter asked President Trump about United States agencies concluding that Russia meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election. Trump revealed that Vladimir Putin strongly denied interference in their talks.

Franco Ordoñez: 202-383-6155, @francoordonez