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Republicans block effort to subpoena only U.S. witness of secret Trump-Putin meeting

TRUMP and PUTIN, WITH TRUMP'S TRANSLATOR AT THE FAR LEFT OF THIS PHOTO. (CREDIT: Alexey NIKOLSKY / Sputnik / AFP)

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.

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 was similarly vague in a tweet he posted on Thursday.

While Trump remains evasive, Putin told Russian lawmakers that the meeting resulted in “useful agreements.”

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.

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.