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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 TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin, following reports that he sought to destroy records detailing such contacts.

Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday shows preview: Washington prepares for an inauguration and impeachment; coronavirus surges across the US What our kids should know after the Capitol Hill riot  Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers MORE (D-Calif.), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelState Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies How Congress dismissed women's empowerment 2020: A year in photos MORE (D-N.Y.) and Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them We must act on lowering cost of prescription drugs 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 MulvaneyMick MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - House to impeach Trump this week Democrats, GOP face defining moments after Capitol riot The Memo: GOP and nation grapple with what comes next 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 NunesCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Bill Belichick turns down Medal of Freedom from Trump Trump gives Medal of Freedom to House ally Jim Jordan 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.