Key Republican looking at whether Trump translator should come before Congress

Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he is looking into whether it is approp...

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 6:02 AM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 6:02 AM

Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he is looking into whether it is appropriate to ask President Donald Trump's translator from the one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to testify or turn over her notes from the summit.

Corker says Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, raised the idea with him and that he is looking into precedent for such a request.

"Look, all of us want to know what took place in this meeting," Corker said. "We're looking into precedent there. ... These are notes taken by translators, you understand in a meeting. I'm not sure it's even appropriate. We're checking that. If it is, certainly we'll pursue it."

On Tuesday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, proposed the idea of bringing the translator before Congress to testify about the one-on-one meeting with Putin, a private discussion that has left lawmakers on both sides of the aisle uneasy after Trump came out publicly Monday and said Putin was convincing in his denial that Russia meddled in the US election. Trump has since tried to walk his comments back.

Since Shaheen floated the idea, other Democrats, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, have also endorsed bringing the translator before Congress.

"This is a moment where we should have access to what happened in that private meeting," Booker said. "I support what Sen. Shaheen is trying to do."

But the question is whether such a testimony would be either protected by executive privilege or whether it would have to take place in a classified setting. Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who has been critical of Trump's performance with Putin, told reporters he'd like to see the translator's notes, but only in a classified setting.

"There are typically notes that are taken," Flake said. "I'm assuming that some of the information could only be given in a classified setting so I would think that before the relevant committees, I'm not saying it ought to be done in a public hearing, we at least ought to get access to the notes that the translators keep."

Another Republican senator -- John Thune of South Dakota -- said having the translator give testimony was "highly unlikely."

"The translator is somebody who, one, is probably not versed in the policy and is going to be able to explain the nuances of what went on there," said Thune, who is a member of Senate GOP leadership. "And I think probably just concentrated on that the translation was being done effectively. I think the Democrats are obviously fishing here to try to keep this story alive. I'm just don't know what that accomplishes. I think if you had somebody in there who was actually a policy person who could talk about the issues they discussed and that sort of thing."

He added, "But, I mean, seems to me asking the translator is a bit of a stretch."

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