The Slatest

House Democrats Analyze Subpoenaing Trump’s Interpreters in Putin Meetings

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018.
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

Lawyers for the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees will sit down Monday to analyze their legal options for issuing subpoenas to the interpreters who were present at President Donald Trump’s meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to ABC News. A piece in the Washington Post saying that Trump has gone to “extraordinary lengths” to hide details of his talks with Putin from members of his own administration “has changed the calculus” and “raises a new host of questions,” a senior Democratic aide told ABC News. “We’re looking into the legal implications of that, and we’ll discuss our options. Our lawyers are sitting down with intel committee lawyers to hash it out.”

The aide warned any action wouldn’t be imminent and if they do decide to issue subpoenas it would likely be weeks away. This is not the first time the issue has been raised. Following Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki in July, the secrecy so alarmed Democrats that some lawmakers wanted to get Trump’s interpreter, Marina Gross, to testify before Congress. In the end she was not forced to testify. At the time many questioned the ethics of forcing an interpreter to answer questions about something that took place behind closed doors. Even some Democrats have said that it could set a new precedent that would make it more difficult for presidents to talk candidly with other world leaders.

Despite these concerns, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff raised the possibility Sunday that Democrats would seek answers from Trump’s interpreter. “Last year, we sought to obtain the interpreter’s notes or testimony, from the private meeting between Trump and Putin,” Schiff wrote on Twitter. “The Republicans on our committee voted us down. Will they join us now?” He then added: “Shouldn’t we find out whether our president is really putting ‘America first?’”

Schiff wasn’t the only Democrat to vow action after the Post story. “Every time Trump meets with Putin, the country is told nothing,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel tweeted. “America deserves the truth and the Foreign Affairs Committee will seek to get to the bottom of it.”