Dem lawmaker calls on House to subpoena American translator from Trump-Putin meeting

Dem lawmaker calls on House to subpoena American translator from Trump-Putin meeting
© Haiyun Jiang

Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellDems seize on Times bombshell to push allegations of Trump obstruction Cuomo to meet with Trump over SALT deduction cap Dems build case for obtaining Trump's tax returns MORE (D-N.J.) on Tuesday called for the American translator present during President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE's private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tell Congress what was said during the encounter.

In a letter to the leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pascrell said the panel should hear testimony from translator Marina Gross, who was the only other American in the room with Trump and Putin.

"Given the public concessions President Trump made to Russian President Vladimir Putin by siding against the U.S. intelligence community, law enforcement, and our military officials about Russia’s attack on our democracy, Congress and the American public deserve to know the details of their private conversation," Pascrell wrote. 

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His call echoes similar proposals made Tuesday by Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Bipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia MORE (D-N.H.) and Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyJoe Kennedy introduces resolution rejecting Trump’s transgender military ban Warren launches White House bid with call for 'structural change' Joe Kennedy to endorse Warren during campaign announcement MORE III (D-Mass.), who both said the American translator should testify in front of Congress.

Though Putin speaks English, both Trump and Putin had translators with them at the meeting in Helsinki due to protocol.

Trump and Putin met privately for more than two hours before their joint press conference on Monday. During the press conference, Trump denied Russian interference in the 2016 election and targeted special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation for souring relations between Russia and the U.S.

Trump's remarks were met with condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Though Trump on Tuesday insisted he supports the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the recent election, he again said "other people" could have also been involved in election meddling. 

A number of lawmakers this week have proposed ways to push back on Trump's original remarks.

Pascrell noted that translators are not typically compelled to testify before Congress. The code of ethics published by the American Translators Association says translators must "hold in confidence" any privileged information they come across. 

"In general, any information that’s confidential has to remain confidential even if you’re an interpreter. For example, attorney-client confidentiality extends to interpreter," American Translators Association spokeswoman Judy Jenner said.

"But as a diplomatic interpreter, you are probably aware of how precarious things could possibly be."

"It may be unprecedented to subpoena a translator to reveal the details of a private meeting between the President and another world leader, but Trump’s actions are unprecedented in a way that harms our national security," Pascrell wrote in his letter to Reps. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyThe family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor Congress must take the next steps on federal criminal justice reforms MORE (R-S.C.) and Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCohen to testify before Senate Intel on Tuesday Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump Jordan says Oversight should be more focused on McCabe, Rosenstein ahead of Cohen testimony MORE (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, respectively.

Pascrell listed evidence that members of the Trump family continue to profit from their businesses, some of which have connections to Russia.

"Over the years, the Trump family has bragged about their financial connections to Russia," Pascrell wrote, citing several quotes by Trump's sons boasting about the Trump Organization's ties to Russia. 

For example, Pascrell listed a time that the president's son Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpAnother New York condo votes to remove 'Trump' from name Deutsche Bank worried Trump Organization would default on loans, eyed changes: report Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall MORE said in 2014, "We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia." 

"Given this history, the American people deserve to know if Trump used his position or this meeting with Putin to continue to pursue his own financial interests," Pascrell wrote.

"I urge you to subpoena the U.S. translator so the American people can get more insight into the dangerous, jaw-dropping performance we saw from Trump in Helsinki," he added.