President Donald Trump went to “extraordinary lengths” to hide the contents of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post reports.
Trump, who has privately met with Putin five times, on at least one occasion took the notes his interpreter made during the meeting and ordered him not to discuss it with anyone.
That incident came after a meeting in Hamburg and was learned when officials tried to get information about the meeting.
“As a result, U.S. officials said 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,” The Post reported. “Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.”
Former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott told the outlet that Trump’s efforts to keep the meetings secret are “not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous.”
“It handicaps the U.S. government — the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve [the president] — and it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump,” Talbot said.
The report came after The New York Times revealed that the FBI began to investigate whether Trump was working as a Russian agent after he fired FBI Director James Comey.
US President denies being Russian agent:
After dodging a question from Fox News host Jeanine Pirro about whether he was working for Russia, Trump eventually denied being a Russian agent while speaking to reporters at the White House Monday.
"I never worked for Russia,” he said. “And you know that answer better than anybody. I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even asked that question because it's a whole big fat hoax. It's just a hoax."
WH insists Trump took notes to avoid leaks:
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway insisted that the notes were “confiscated” from the interpreter but did not say if they were “destroyed.” Conway said that Trump took the notes to avoid leaks.
“His calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia had leaked, he had an Oval Office meeting in May of 2017, contents of that leaked. And so there was great concern at the time,” she told Fox News.
Democrats call for notes to be released:
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the new head of the House Intelligence Committee, called on Republicans to back his effort to obtain notes or testimony from the interpreter at Trump’s meeting with Putin.
“Will they join us now?” Schiff wrote on Twitter. “Shouldn’t we find out whether our president is really putting ‘America first?’”
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, questioned Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Why is he so chummy with Vladimir Putin, this man who is a former K.G.B. agent, never been a friend to the United States, invaded our allies, threatens us around the world and tries his damnedest to undermine our elections?” Durbin asked. “Why is this President Trump’s best buddy? I don’t get it.”