Democrats plan to talk to the translators

Democrats plan to talk to the translators

by digby

I don't know if this will work, but it's a good idea to at least try. Maybe busy Americans will at least hear about the fact that their president is meeting with foreign leaders privately and ensuring there are no records of the conversation:

House Democrats are taking their first real steps to force President Donald Trump to divulge information about his private conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, setting up an extraordinary clash with the White House over Congress’ oversight authority.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, told POLITICO they are actively consulting with House General Counsel Douglas Letter about the best way to legally compel the Trump administration to turn over documents or other information related to the president’s one-on-one discussions with the Russian leader.

“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 (D-Calif.) said in a brief interview.

It’s a development that indicates Schiff and Engel are close to taking action on the matter; key members of the majority party often consult with the chamber’s general counsel on issues that could end up playing out in court. Democrats want to ensure that they are on the strongest possible legal ground because they anticipate the Trump administration will mount spirited challenges.

The move also underscores the seriousness with which Democrats view Trump’s conciliatory statements and actions toward Moscow and its place as a top House priority as the party pursues wide-ranging investigations into the president and his administration.

In particular, Democrats say they want to find out what Trump and Putin discussed during their private meeting in Helsinki last July, where Trump put himself at odds with the U.S. intelligence community and declared — while standing next to the Russian president — that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 elections.

Trump’s remark prompted Democrats to call for Marina Gross, the State Department translator who was the only other American present for the Trump-Putin meeting, to share her notes with Congress and testify in public.

Schiff and Engel have left all options on the table, including issuing subpoenas, which the White House would surely fight.

Democrats acknowledge long-standing precedents about the sensitivity of presidential communications with world leaders. But they argue that Trump’s posture toward Russia and his efforts to conceal details of his private conversations with Putin are good enough reasons to pursue the issue with the House general counsel.

“I’m not saying that I’m in favor 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 (D-N.Y.) said in an interview.

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Democrats’ campaign to find out what Trump and Putin discussed began in earnest last month after a Washington Post story revealed that the U.S. president went to “extraordinary lengths” to shield his interpreter’s notes about a 2017 meeting with Putin in Hamburg from senior officials in his administration.

I very much doubt they'll let this happen. But it will bring attention to the matter which may filter out more effectively to the American people and that's part of what the Democrats need to do. The fact that Trump tore up the notes and that he's meeting privately with Putin and there's no official record is damning behavior. But I'm not sure that the public is fully aware of how outrageous his actions have been.