There are no detailed records of five personal meetings President Donald Trump has had with Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post reported Saturday, citing US officials.
Trump has gone to what the Post described as “extraordinary lengths” to keep the specifics of his conversations with his Russian counterpart under wraps.
Current and former US officials told the paper that Trump’s efforts include confiscating the notes from his interpreter and not allowing them to discuss the details of the meetings with other officials in his administration.
The Post notes that this behavior by Trump is not usual per past presidential standards.
In one instance, following a meeting Trump had with Putin in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017 that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also present for, a White House adviser and a senior State Department official were seeking additional information from Trump’s interpreter that was more than the information provided in a readout from Tillerson. That, according to the Post, was when US officials became aware of Trump’s efforts.
A White House spokesman told the Post that the Trump administration has looked to “improve the relationship with Russia” after the Obama administration “pursued a flawed ‘reset’ policy that sought engagement for the sake of engagement.”
The Post reported that the White House spokesperson added that the Trump administration “has imposed significant new sanctions in response to Russian malign activities.”
The spokesman talked to the Post on the condition of anonymity and said that following the 2017 Hamburg meeting that included Tillerson, the former secretary of state “gave a fulsome readout of the meeting immediately afterward to other US officials in a private setting, as well as a readout to the press.”
Trump responded to the reporting in a phone interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro on Saturday night.
“I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries,” Trump said. “I do it with all countries. We had a great conversation, we were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things and it was a great conversation. I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the report “outrageously inaccurate” and said that Trump has taken a stricter line on Russia than his predecessors.
“The Washington Post story is so outrageously inaccurate it doesn’t even warrant a response,” she said in a statement.
“The liberal media has wasted two years trying to manufacture a fake collusion scandal instead of reporting the fact that unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia.”
The statement echoes one she gave Friday night about a New York Times report that the FBI opened a counter-intelligence investigation into the President following the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Thursday, prior to the publishing of The Washington Post’s story, Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN that he was planing to sit down with his counterpart in the House to discuss priorities. And, he said if he had subpoena power, the first thing he’d go after would be the notes from the translator in the Putin meeting.
“I’d like to get the notes of the meeting that the President had with Putin. There was a translator so I’m sure she took notes down simultaneously in order to translate. Unless she’s destroyed them, they would be of interest,” he said.
The Post’s report comes as special counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election — and whether there were any ties between the Kremlin and Trump campaign associates.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.