Democrats consider subpoena for interpreter of Trump-Putin meeting

Democrats consider subpoena for interpreter of Trump-Putin meeting
Some are concerned that the president appears to have gone to great lengths to scrub the official record of his face-to-face meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(CNN) - Congressional Democrats want to find out what President Trump discussed in his meetings with Russian leader Vladimir Putin after a former State Department official said that Trump went out of his way to keep those discussions under wraps.

The former official said Trump confiscated his interpreter’s notes after talks with Putin in Germany in 2017 and reportedly told the interpreter to keep quiet about what was said in the room, even to members of his own administration.

The Washington Post was the first to report about Trump’s “extraordinary” efforts to keep his discussions with Putin a secret.

Because of this, there is no record, even classified, of Trump’s five face-to-face meetings with Putin over the past two years, something usual in any presidency, the Post reported.

Democrats may try to subpoena an interpreter who was at another meeting with Putin last year.

In Helsinki last July, Trump stood alongside Putin after their two-hour meeting and seemed to take Putin's side on certain things, like meddling in the U.S. election.

"I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer," Trump said.

But to this day, the only other American who knows what exactly was said in there is the interpreter, Marina Gross, a well-respected State Department employee for at least a decade who interpreted for Laura Bush at the Sochi Olympics.

Democrats, who now lead the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, are discussing subpoenaing Gross, which would be unprecedented.

“This really getting to the truth frankly is more important than precedent or executive privilege. The only person beside Putin who witnessed the conversation was the translator. She has to be heard from under oath before our committee,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, (D) Foreign Affairs Committee. “Until and unless we hear from the interpreter, we’re not going to know because there are no notes.”

Democrats in Congress called for this months ago but Republicans blocked it.

“It’s so many months past and we don’t know what went on. You just scratch your head and say, ‘What is it?’” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D - Foreign Affairs Committee chairman.

Some said they are troubled by what they call a “cozy” relationship with Putin.

Speier 'troubled' by Trump's behavior regarding Putin

“The president has for two years now done everything in President Putin’s playbook," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-CA. "He could just check them off one by one, whether it’s from trying to extract from NATO or whether it is following Putin’s view of history relative to Afghanistan. I’m very troubled by the relationship, and I think most Americans are very uncomfortable by what they see as a far too cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin.”

There is debate over whether a subpoena is a good idea.

Interpreters work under a code of confidentiality. There are worries that breaking this barrier could prevent leaders from being able to speak freely and privately with each other in the future.

The White House could also try to claim executive privilege.

For now, though, White House aides say the president has merely been trying to cut down on leaks from his own aides - which in itself is extraordinary.

The president called the story “fake news. That was a very good meeting. … I have those meetings, one on one, with all leaders, including the president of China, including prime minister of Japan, Abe. We have those meetings all the time. No big deal.”

Copyright 2019 CNN. All rights reserved. Gray Television Group, Inc., contributed to this report.