June 28, 2019

Following Latest Chummy Meeting with Putin, Menendez Demands Trump Admin Preserve All Records for Congressional Oversight

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this morning demanded the Trump Administration take the necessary steps to preserve all records related to any meeting or interaction between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. In separate letters to President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo, Menendez requested all preparatory materials, notes, transcripts, readouts, memoranda, communications, and other relevant documents and data around the President’s encounters with Putin be preserved to “prevent any inadvertent destruction or deletion of records.”

“In our democracy, the American people, through their representatives, have a right to know what President Trump has discussed or agreed to on behalf of the United States when he meets with President Putin,” wrote Menendez to Secretary Pompeo. “The lack of transparency surrounding their previous discussions should not be repeated.”

The letters come after the two leaders met Friday on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka. After the closed-door meeting, President Trump publicly exchanged pleasantries with Vladimir Putin about “getting rid of journalists” and joked about Russia meddling in future U.S. elections.

“While Presidents can and should have candid discussions with foreign leaders, official records from such discussions are necessary for executive agencies and members of Congress to understand what you have said or agreed to on behalf of the United States and to develop and implement effective foreign policy and national security strategies,” wrote the Senator in his missive to President Trump. “Past reports regarding your attempts to conceal information about your conversations with Vladimir Putin, as well as the general secrecy around your interactions with him, undermine our national security and the transparency necessary for a democratic government like the United States.”

A copy of the Senator’s letter to President Trump can be found HERE. A copy of the  Senator’s letter to Secretary Pompeo can be found HERE. Both letters below:

Dear Mr. President:

I write to ensure that Congress and the American people have a credible understanding of what transpires during all of your interactions with President Putin at the G20 Summit in Osaka. The lack of transparency surrounding your prior encounters with President Putin—in contrast to meetings with other foreign leaders—have provided ample reason to question whether you are being forthcoming with the public. To put these concerns to rest, and to maintain a historic record, it is imperative that all steps are taken to create and preserve records that may provide insight into what you discussed or agreed to on behalf of the United States.

To that end, I call upon you to preserve all records related to the meeting, including preparatory materials, notes, transcripts, readouts, memoranda, communications, and other relevant documents and data. This includes any records required to be preserved pursuant to the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act, as well as records regarding the planning of the meeting; records that contain information regarding proposed topics or talking points; records that reflect what was actually discussed, such as notes from the note taker and the interpreter or transcripts; and any records related to follow-up communications or topics from the summit. In undertaking this effort, I ask that you ensure all reasonable steps are taken to prevent any inadvertent destruction or deletion of records. I also request that the White House identify all individuals present for any interactions with President Putin.

While Presidents can and should have candid discussions with foreign leaders, official records from such discussions are necessary for executive agencies and members of Congress to understand what you have said or agreed to on behalf of the United States and to develop and implement effective foreign policy and national security strategies. Past reports regarding your attempts to conceal information about your conversations with Vladimir Putin, as well as the general secrecy around your interactions with him, undermine our national security and the transparency necessary for a democratic government like the United States.

I look forward to your prompt response following the G20 Summit.

Sincerely,

Robert Menendez

Ranking Member

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

As I have expressed previously, I remain concerned about the pattern of secrecy surrounding President Trump’s meetings with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. In our democracy, the American people, through their representatives, have a right to know what President Trump has discussed or agreed to on behalf of the United States when he meets with President Putin. The lack of transparency surrounding their previous discussions should not be repeated. Therefore, it is imperative that all possible steps are taken to create and preserve records that may provide insight into what was discussed or agreed to on behalf of the United States during their interactions at the G20 Summit in Osaka.

I call on you and the State Department to preserve all records related to the meeting, including preparatory materials, notes, transcripts, readouts, memoranda, communications, and other relevant documents and data. This includes any records required to be preserved pursuant to the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act, as well as records regarding the planning of the meeting; records that contain information regarding proposed topics or talking points; records that reflect what was actually discussed, such as notes from the note taker and the interpreter or transcripts; and any records related to follow-up communications or topics from the summit. In undertaking this effort, I ask that you ensure all reasonable steps are taken to prevent any inadvertent destruction or deletion of records.

In addition, to ensure that this Administration is taking these responsibilities seriously, and so that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee can carry out its oversight responsibilities, I request that you provide the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a list of the names and titles of all individuals who were present for any interactions at the G20 in Osaka, as well as a list of individuals who are in possession of any records relating to any such interactions.

I look forward to your prompt and full response following the G20 Summit.

Sincerely,

Robert Menendez

Ranking Member

 

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