Cummings demands details on 2017 Trump-Putin meeting

The House Oversight Committee chairman has asked whether the president violated the President Records Act by destroying and confiscating documents containing details about that sitdown.
Image: Trump meets with Putin in Helsinki, Finland
A letter sent Monday asked the White House to respond to questions about the Trump-Putin meeting in July 2017. Kevin Lamarque file / Reuters

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By Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe

WASHINGTON — House Democrats on the Oversight Committee demanded an explanation from the Trump administration Monday on why it hadn’t answered questions raised by the panel about a private meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017.

In a letter to White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Monday, Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., followed up on a request he made in February about reports that Trump personally violated the President Records Act by destroying and confiscating documents containing details about his meeting with Putin in July 2017.

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“The Presidential Records Act is at the core of the Oversight Committee’s legislative and oversight jurisdiction, and I had hoped that the White House would cooperate voluntarily with this inquiry,” Cummings wrote.

“Instead, the White House has disregarded these legitimate congressional inquiries and dissembled about basic facts. These actions do not serve the interests of the American people, and they obstruct and frustrate the Committee’s review.”

Cummings and other Democratic committee chairs first sent the White House a letter in February asking for more details as to how the White House had complied with federal records laws. In March, White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter claiming that he had answered the committee’s questions “fully," but Cummings said Monday that Cipollone had not provided the requested information.

Cummings is again demanding answers to his original questions, which include whether Trump destroyed or altered the interpreter’s notes from the 2017 meeting with Putin in Hamburg, Germany, steps that Trump took to preserve the interpreter’s notes and who currently possesses those notes, among other issues.

The letter sent Monday asked the White House to respond to Cummings’ questions by July 8. He also requested that a transcribed interview be done by that same date with the director of White House Office of Records Management or a similar official to discuss the situation.

The meeting in question was not disclosed by the White House until more than a week after it occurred at the G-20 summit. During the hourlong meeting, Trump used only a Kremlin translator with none of his national security staff present and as a result, no U.S. government record exists of the conversation.