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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 PascrellZombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes New report reignites push for wealth tax MORE (D-N.J.) on Tuesday called for the American translator present during President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat 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 ShaheenCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (D-N.H.) and Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedySupreme Court confounding its partisan critics Warren says she'll run for reelection to Senate Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote 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 (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 GowdyTrey GowdyTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows Pompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy MORE (R-S.C.) and Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDemocrats plot next move after GOP sinks Jan. 6 probe Lawmakers press AbbVie CEO on increased US prices of two drugs Overnight Health Care: AstraZeneca may have included outdated data on vaccine trial, officials say | Pelosi says drug pricing measure under discussion for infrastructure package | Biden administration extends special ObamaCare enrollment until August 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 TrumpFlorida city bans gambling amid prospects of Trump-owned casino Lara Trump on Senate bid: 'No for now, not no forever' Lara Trump disputes report that father-in-law is discussing reinstalment 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.