WASHINGTON ― Nobody knows what President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin in their private, two-hour meeting on Monday, after which he publicly trashed U.S. intelligence and praised the Russian dictator.
Well, almost nobody. At least one U.S. interpreter was in the room with the two leaders. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) says she wants to bring in that interpreter to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on what, exactly, Trump shared with Putin.
“That translator is an official of the U.S. government,” Shaheen told reporters Tuesday. “It is imperative that the American people and this Congress know precisely what the president shared or promised the Kremlin on our behalf.”
She later broadcast a similar message on Twitter.
I’m calling for a hearing with the U.S. interpreter who was present during President Trump’s meeting with Putin to uncover what they discussed privately. This interpreter can help determine what @POTUS shared/promised Putin on our behalf.
– Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) July 17, 2018
Shaheen, who is a member of the committee, is currently collecting signatures on a letter to the chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), to request the hearing.
A Corker spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Corker would support holding such a hearing.
It’s certainly an interesting idea for getting details from the highly unusual meeting, though it’s not immediately clear whether the president could claim executive privilege to prevent his interpreter from testifying.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he supports Shaheen’s push for a hearing.
Some House Democrats are also floating the idea.
And that was only what we saw on live TV. @realDonaldTrump ‘s translator should come before Congress and testify as to what was said privately immediately. If Republicans are as outraged as they claim, then issue the subpoena today. 2/2
– Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) July 16, 2018
Earlier on Tuesday, Republicans acted as if there was no way to find out what happened in the meeting.
“The world will never know,” Sen. Jim Lankford (R-Okla.) said. “Because there were no note takers, the Russians will say, ‘This is what was said,’ and there’s no way to be able” to counter that.
“Um…,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, pausing when asked if he wants to know what Trump said in the meeting. “I don’t understand the value of that two-hour meeting, but that’s the president’s decision to make not mine.”
But Shaheen said if there ever was a time for lawmakers to enforce their oversight role of the executive branch, it is now ― as Trump lavishes Putin with praise in the midst of an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win.
“Yesterday’s events make it explicitly clear that Congress must exert its authority to be a check on the presidency,” she said.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.