On Thursday morning, House Intelligence Committee members Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) moved to subpoena the only American witness to President Trump’s secret meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin — the interpreter.
This was voted down by every Republican on the committee.
House Intel Dems just moved to subpoena the translator from the #TrumpPutin private meeting. We must know, did @realDonaldTrump — who has sided with Putin time and again — make any secret deals or risk national security secrets? EVERY Republican voted against the motion.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) July 19, 2018
BREAKING: @RepSwalwell and I just made a motion in House Intel Committee to subpoena the American interpreter during the summit — the only witness to Trump’s meeting with Putin. This is an extraordinary remedy, but Trump’s actions necessitate it.
Republicans voted it down.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 19, 2018
Schiff and Swalwell’s effort comes as Trump — whose campaign is currently under active criminal investigation for colluding with Putin during the 2016 presidential campaign — is being extremely evasive about what he and the Russian strongman actually discussed during their meeting.
During a interview with CBS Evening News that aired on Wednesday, Trump attacked the media for not devoting more coverage to a meeting he didn’t allow anyone but his translator to attend, but was unable to disclose any specific agreements he and Putin struck.
“What tangibly emerged from that conversation? What do you feel you achieved?” CBS’ Jeff Glor asked Trump.
“I think we achieved a lot,” Trump said, before ticking through a vague list of topics. “Things emerged out that were very important. Nuclear proliferation — between Russia and the United States, that’s 90 percent of the nuclear weapons. Protection of Israel — he feels good about that, I feel good about that, very good about that. That was a big factor. We talked about North Korea.”
TRUMP is *extremely* vague about his secret meeting w/Putin: "The important thing, frankly, was the meeting that lasted for 2.5 hours… things emerged out that were very important. Nuclear proliferation. Protection of Israel. North Korea. [Putin] thinks I'm doing a great job." pic.twitter.com/nLb0gQCgZ5
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 18, 2018
Trump was similarly vague in a tweet he posted on Thursday.
The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media. I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear……..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2018
While Trump remains evasive, Putin told Russian lawmakers that the meeting resulted in “useful agreements.”
Breaking: In speech to Russian diplomats in Moscow, Putin says summit with Trump was "successful overall and led to useful agreements." pic.twitter.com/hK6K7CjBpf
— Lucian Kim (@Lucian_Kim) July 19, 2018
What those “agreements” could be remains anyone’s guess, as the American government hasn’t yet said a word about them. However, during a briefing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did confirm that the two leaders discussed a highly abnormal proposal put forth by Putin that would allow his government to interrogate American citizens, including former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
But Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee — chaired by Devin Nunes (R-CA), who has colluded with the White House to politicize intelligence reports related to Russia’s attack on American democracy — apparently aren’t interested in learning more about what Trump and Putin talked about, or doing much oversight of the president or any members of their party at all.
Earlier Thursday, Schiff went on CNN and detailed how Republicans prevented Democrats from subpoenaing Maria Butina, a Russian national who was indicted for secretly infiltrating the National Rifle Association (NRA) earlier this week.
“We heard credible allegations that the Russians may have been funneling money through the NRA, so yes, we wanted to pursue this, but like many other things, when it got too hot, the Republican reaction was, ‘We don’t want to know. We’d rather not know,'” Schiff said. “It was very clear that anything that might tarnish the NRA, they didn’t want to hear.”
Meanwhile, on Fox News, Swalwell said he has concerns that Trump may have shared classified intelligence with Putin. If he did, it wouldn’t be the first time he shared that sort of information with Russians.
There’s a disturbing inference to be drawn from this NYT piece: namely that the CIA had an intelligence asset close to Putin and Trump gave him or her up in Helsinki https://t.co/g1a7PQ2cXW
— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) July 19, 2018
While it’s unclear what Trump and Putin discussed during their secret meeting, it’s worth remembering that within 24 hours of the two leaders’ first private meeting during the G20 summit in July 2017, Trump dictated a misleading statement for Donald Trump Jr. that claimed “a program about the adoption of Russian children” was the reason top Trump campaign officials met with a Russian agent in Trump Tower during the campaign.
That statement was quickly contradicted by Don Jr.’s emails, which he voluntarily published in order to get ahead of a forthcoming New York Times report. Those emails showed the Trump Tower meeting really stemmed from the Trump campaign’s desire to obtain incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, no matter the source. In fact, the word “adoptions” doesn’t appear a single time in the correspondence Don Jr. released.
What role, if any, Putin played in developing Trump’s false talking point remains a matter of speculation — as does the question of whether Trump was seeking input from the Russian strongman this time around.