January 18, 2019

SFRC Dems to Pompeo: What was State Department’s Role in and Knowledge of Trump-Putin Meetings?

 

WASHINGTON –Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), today sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to identify the specific State Department officials, including interpreters, who may have relevant information or records on the five private meetings between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Senators’ letter follows a series of news reports that indicate there may be little to no official records after President Trump allegedly took extraordinary measures to conceal the contents of his conversations with Putin from his own advisers and other U.S. government officials.

 Joining Senator Menendez on the letter are U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

“While Presidents and foreign leaders certainly can and should have candid discussions, the absence of any official records for multiple discussions with a foreign leader would be unprecedented,” wrote the senators. “This unexplained secrecy deprives the State Department and our national security agencies of critical information needed to develop and implement U.S. foreign policy and national security strategies, and undermines the transparency with which our democratic institutions must operate.”

“We further seek to understand if the President’s approach to his meetings with Putin differs substantially from his approach to analogous meetings with other foreign leaders, as reports have indicated,” added the senators before listing a series of questions for Secretary Pompeo to answer by February 1, 2019.

A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

President Trump has met with or spoken to President Putin at least five times since being in office. However, Congress has yet to be provided with a comprehensive readout of those discussions. According to reports, administration officials also have very little, if any, information on what was said or promised during the President’s discussions with President Putin. While Presidents and foreign leaders certainly can and should have candid discussions, the absence of any official records for multiple discussions with a foreign leader would be unprecedented. This unexplained secrecy deprives the State Department and our national security agencies of critical information needed to develop and implement U.S. foreign policy and national security strategies, and undermines the transparency with which our democratic institutions must operate.

The President’s reported insistence on secrecy in his conversations with President Putin is particularly troubling, however, given the ongoing questions surrounding whether there was coordination or links between the President’s campaign and the Russian government. Reports that the President himself has been the focus of a counterintelligence probe make his desire to keep his conversations with Putin private more alarming.

We therefore write to ascertain whether the State Department was in fact privy to any of those conversations, either through relevant officials attending in person, or by obtaining traditional readouts after the fact. We further seek to understand if the President’s approach to his meetings with Putin differs substantially from his approach to analogous meetings with other foreign leaders, as reports have indicated. To that end, please provide the following:

1.       The names and titles of all State Department employees and contractors who were physically present for each of the President’s conversations or meetings with President Putin, including the relevant dates.

2.       The names and titles of all State Department employees and contractors who were physically present for the President’s conversations or meetings with President Xi, Prime Minister Abe, and Prime Minister Modi, including the relevant dates.

3.       The names and titles of all State Department employees and contractors who possess any relevant records, notes or documents, whether or not subject to the Federal Records Act, that relate to or reflect the subject of any communications or topics actually discussed with President Putin.

4.       The names and titles of all State Department employees and contractors, including interpreters, who have been asked to destroy or turnover any notes or records relating to any conversations or meetings with any foreign officials, including the date of the meeting and the relevant foreign official.

Given the urgent national security implications of these questions, we request that you respond promptly and fully, no later than February 1, 2019.

 

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