A new report from The Washington Post on Sunday details how President Donald Trump allegedly attempted to keep the details of his meetings with Russian leader Vladimir Putin from the rest of the American government — including his own staff and advisers. Trump's attempts to conceal details of conversations with Putin once saw the president allegedly taking away the notes from his own interpreter after the meeting so that they couldn't be shared with officials.
This news comes on the heels of another exclusive report from The New York Times that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump to explore whether he was working on the behalf of Russia against the United States. This was shortly after the president fired former FBI director James Comey. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment on both of these reports.
Trump did not give a comment to the The Washington Post before publication, but he did appear on Jeanine Pirro's Fox News program, where Pirro asked him if he is working or had ever worked for Russia, given The Times piece. "I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked," Trump responded before claiming that he had been tougher on Russia than other past presidents.
He also commented on the conversations he had with Putin. "I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries," Trump told Pirro. "I do it with all countries. We had a great conversation, we were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things and it was a great conversation. I'm not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn't care less."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also responded after publication. "The Washington Post story is so outrageously inaccurate it doesn't even warrant a response," Sanders said Sunday in a statement given to CNN. "The liberal media has wasted two years trying to manufacture a fake collusion scandal instead of reporting the fact that unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia."
A White House spokesperson spoke to The Washington Post for the piece, but only anonymously, and they pointed to sanctions that have been imposed on Russia. The spokesperson also said that at one meeting the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was present and he shared a "readout to the press."
The Post's report, however, says that at that same meeting where Tillerson gave the readout, an official wanted more detail and couldn't get it from the interpreter. The newspaper report said that it was "not clear" whether Trump had taken the notes from interpreters in other occasions, or just after the meeting with Tillerson in 2017.
Former officials and Trump allies told The Post the secrecy may have stemmed from Trump's worry about leaks and the idea that he can establish a better rapport with Putin when he's alone.
Democrats have been very critical. Rep. Eliot Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs, told The Post that the committee needs to be informed of what happened and will investigate. "It’s been several months since Helsinki and we still don’t know what went on in that meeting," Engel told the paper. "It’s appalling. It just makes you want to scratch your head."
The Democrats, however, may have trouble getting an answer if there's no official record.