The Slatest

Trump Reportedly Went to “Extraordinary Lengths” to Hide Details of Putin Talks From His Own Officials

President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

At a time when President Donald Trump’s relationship with Moscow is under the microscope, the Washington Post reveals a distressing fact: there are no detailed records of the commander in chief’s five personal meetings with President Vladimir Putin. Trump has gone to “extraordinary lengths” to keep the details of his conversations with Putin hidden. And it’s to a degree that some experts have characterized as unprecedented.

In one particularly galling example, Trump took the notes from his own interpreter. After a 2017 meeting in Hamburg, Trump told his interpreter not to discuss what had taken place behind closed doors with members of his own administration. So when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official went asking for more details about what had taken place in the more than two-hour sitdown, the interpreter declined to elaborate. That may have been the most extreme example, but it’s not that out of the ordinary considering “there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years,” notes the Post.

The secrecy “is not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous,” said Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state. “It handicaps the U.S. government — the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve” and it also “gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump.” Lawmakers have also found the secrecy shocking and Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has vowed to launch an investigation.

The White House denied the characterization of the story. “The Washington Post story is so outrageously inaccurate it doesn’t even warrant a response,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Trump also denied it as nonsense during an interview with Fox News Saturday night. “Anyone could have listened to that meeting.
That meeting is open for grabs,” Trump said. He also dismissed suggestions that he would not release details of his conversations with Putin. “I would. I don’t care,” he said. “I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less.”