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 TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin, following reports that he sought to destroy records detailing such contacts.

Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTop Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence Overnight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Overnight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies MORE (D-Calif.), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse panel halts contempt proceedings against Pompeo after documents turned over Engel subpoenas US global media chief Michael Pack The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE (D-N.Y.) and Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBlack GOP candidate accuses Behar of wearing black face in heated interview Overnight Health Care: US won't join global coronavirus vaccine initiative | Federal panel lays out initial priorities for COVID-19 vaccine distribution | NIH panel: 'Insufficient data' to show treatment touted by Trump works House Oversight Democrats to subpoena AbbVie in drug pricing probe 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 MulvaneyMick Mulvaney to start hedge fund Fauci says positive White House task force reports don't always match what he hears on the ground Bottom line 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 NunesSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Sunday shows preview: With less than two months to go, race for the White House heats up Sunday shows preview: Republicans gear up for national convention, USPS debate continues in Washington 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.