Democrats want Trump interpreter to testify about Putin summit
WASHINGTON, USA – Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday, July 18, pushed for Congress to subpoena Donald Trump's interpreter, amid a growing sense of alarm over the private summit in Helsinki between the US president and Russia's Vladimir Putin.
The two presidents held a two-hour closed-door negotiation with no other officials present save for the leaders' interpreters. Democrats say the woman who translated for Trump – and the notes she took during the meeting – could provide critical information about what transpired.
"We want the interpreter to come before the committee. We want to see the notes," Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told MSNBC.
"We're going to have a massive effort to try to get to what happened."
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have condemned Trump's positive take on Putin during Monday's post-meeting joint press conference.
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Jeanne Shaheen have also called for the interpreter, identified as Marina Gross, to testify, as have congressmen Joe Kennedy and Bill Pascrell in the House of Representatives.
Shaheen said the hearing could help lawmakers and the American people "determine what was specifically discussed and agreed to on the United States' behalf."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said he would consider the proposal but appeared to pour cold water on it.
"They're not policy people. They are in some cases contract folks," Corker told reporters.
"In the future, would any notes even be allowed to be taken if you started doing this kind of thing?"
The White House is highly likely to swat away the request and invoke executive privilege, arguing that no president is required to reveal private conversations and that an aide, such as a translator, should not be compelled to do so either.
When asked whether there was a recording of the Trump-Putin meeting, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said "I'm not aware of one," and refered further questions to the State Department.
At a daily briefing, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she had yet to find any precedent for compelling a presidential interpreter to testify, and that "no formal request... at this point" has been made for Gross to do so.
Corker said a better option would be to grill Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Helsinki with Trump and most likely was debriefed by the president about the summit discussions.
Pompeo is scheduled to testify before Corker's committee on July 25.
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said he was not inclined to support hauling interpreters before Congress.
"But what I do want to know from Pompeo is whether or not any agreements were reached" between Trump and Putin, he said.
Blumenthal for his part says he wants to see "the whole national security team, beginning with (National Security Advisor) John Bolton," brought before Congress to provide details on the Trump-Putin meeting. – Rappler.com