House Dems demand records from Trump's communications with Putin

Three Democratic chairmen in the House are pressing for records and interviews related to President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin, following reports that he sought to destroy records detailing such contacts.

Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump says lawmakers should censure Schiff Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public The comments and actions of Schiff demand his formal censure MORE (D-Calif.), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs War of words at the White House House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria pullout MORE (D-N.Y.) and Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCracks emerge in White House strategy as witness testifies Overnight Defense: Pentagon insists US hasn't abandoned Kurds | Trump expands sanctions authority against Turkey | Ex-Ukraine ambassador says Trump pushed for her ouster On The Money: Trump announces limited trade deal with China | Appeals court rules against Trump over financial records | Trump expands authority to sanction Turkey MORE (D-Md.), the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees, respectively, wrote separate letters to acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneySondland could provide more clues on Ukraine controversy Tensions flare as Democrats urge consumer bureau to boost penalties White House conducting probe into handling of Ukraine call transcript: report MORE and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo asking that they turn over personnel records detailing the president's contacts with Putin. 

The three chairmen also want access to the interpreters who sat in on Trump's meetings with Putin.

"President Trump, on multiple occasions, appears to have taken steps to conceal the details of his communications with President Putin from other administration officials, Congress, and the American people," the lawmakers wrote, citing media reports. 

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The lawmakers said they were concerned that materials "may have been manipulated or withheld from the official record in direct contravention of federal laws, which expressly require that Presidents and other administration officials preserve such materials."

They said manipulating or withholding records would violate the Presidential Records Act, which was instituted after President Nixon left office following the Watergate controversy.

"It is well within the President’s Constitutional authority to have candid one-on-one conversations with foreign heads of state," a White House spokesman told The Hill. "The President may choose to share, or not share the contents of those conversations publicly as such discussions – like all diplomatic discussions – are often sensitive in nature. We would hope that the House Committees would respect the separation of powers, especially the authority of the President to conduct foreign diplomacy."

A spokesman for Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald Nunes10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable A Republican Watergate veteran's perspective on a Trump impeachment Meet the lawyer at center of whistleblower case: 'It is an everyday adventure' MORE (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the Intelligence panel, blasted this effort as a ploy for Democrats to try to impeach Trump.

“With their Russian collusion allegations imploding, the Democrats are weaponizing congressional committees to try to manufacture some new case to use to impeach the president," spokesman Jack Langer said in a statement to The Hill. "After they hyped the collusion hoax for more than two years, I don’t know how anyone can view them as honest investigators as opposed to zealous, partisan operatives.”

The Democratic lawmakers in February had asked Trump if he had destroyed the records, but in the new letter the three chairmen said they had received no response from the administration.

"As a result, we are now expanding our investigation," they wrote.

Last year, Schiff and other Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee called on Republicans to subpoena the U.S. interpreter present for the president's meeting with Putin in Helsinki last year, during which Trump cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence assessment about Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

While Republicans voted that idea down, Democrats argued that this was an exceptional case that required exceptional measures.

Former officials from the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, however, dismissed the subpoena idea at the time, saying it was a bridge too far.

 

—Updated at 7:50 p.m.