The Washington Post reported on Sunday details of how President Donald Trump allegedly tried to conceal details of his meetings with Russian leader Vladimir Putin from the rest of the U.S. government, his personal staff, and even his advisors.
The news comes one day after The New York Times reported that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether the president worked for Russia against the United States. This was around the time Trump fired former FBI director James Comey in 2017.
Trump and Putin have met five times so far, and the report revealed that very few within the administration knew what the two leaders discussed behind closed doors. According to the report, Trump’s meeting with Putin in Hamburg, Germany, ended with the president telling his interpreter “not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials.” A White House spokesperson told The Post that at the meeting former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shared a “readout to the press,” and an official needed more details, but he could not get it from the interpreter. The Post’s report also said it was unclear whether Trump had taken the notes from interpreters in other meetings, or just in the meeting with Tillerson.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 12, 2019
Sources also told The Post that there hasn’t been any detailed records of Trump’s conversations with Putin—even in classified files. According to The Post, U.S. officials have also been unable to get a transcription of Trump’s two-hour meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland last summer. No cabinet officials or aides were allowed in the meeting too.
Former officials told The Post that the president’s secrecy might have stemmed from worry about leaks.
Trump has yet to give a comment on The Washington Post report, but he addressed The New York Times report on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox Newsprograms. On the program, Pirro asked the president whether or not he worked for Russia. “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Trump responded. He then claimed that he had been tougher on Russia than any other president.
He continued with, “I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries. 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 responded to the report on Sunday. “The Washington Post story is so outrageously inaccurate it doesn’t even warrant a response,” Sanders said to CNN. “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.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Post, “Every time Trump meets with Putin, the country is told nothing. America deserves the truth and the Foreign Affairs Committee will seek to get to the bottom of it.