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House Democrats demand documents on Trump-Putin talks

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Image: President Trump Postpones Nancy Pelosi's Overseas Trip
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Jan. 17, 2019. -
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The Democratic chairmen of three key House committees on Monday requested a trove of documents from the White House and State Department on President Donald Trump's meetings and phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The chairmen — Adam Schiff, of California, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, and Eliot Engel of New York — are also asking that the translators present for the meetings and calls be made available for interviews with their committees. The three lawmakers respectively chair the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs panels.

Their letter follows another to the White House last month in which they sought answers to several questions about the records of Trump's communications with Putin. The White House did not respond by the given due date of last Friday.

The chairmen wrote to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeothat they are now expanding their investigation and asking for more documents and interviews to assist in their examination of the meetings and calls. The Democrats wrote that they want to know how the communications have affected U.S. foreign policy and whether the president or his administration have tried to conceal records of talks between the two leaders, in violation of federal law.

"According to media reports, President Trump, on multiple occasions, appears to have taken steps to conceal the details of his communications with President Putin from other administration officials, Congress, and the American people," the chairmen wrote. "The President reportedly seized notes pertaining to at least one meeting held with President Putin and directed at least one American interpreter not to discuss the substance of communications with President Putin with other federal officials."

"These allegations, if true, raise profound national security, counterintelligence, and foreign policy concerns, especially in light of Russia's ongoing active measures campaign to improperly influence American elections," they added.

In January, The Washington Post reported that Trump personally intervened to hide details of meetings with the Russian president, such a sit-down between the two leaders in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017. The Post reported that Trump went to "extraordinary lengths" to keep conversations with Putin under wraps, with current and former U.S. officials telling the publication that in Hamburg, Trump went as far as confiscating notes from his interpreter and barring them from discussing details of the meeting with other administration officials.

In another high-profile instance, Trump didn't allow Cabinet officials or any aides into the room during a two-hour conversation with Putin during their summit in Helsinki, Finland, last summer. Only translator were present, and several officials have since said they were never able to get a reliable readout of the meeting, the Post reported.

Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro in January that he was not "keeping anything under wraps" and he "couldn't care less" about transcripts of the interview being made public.

"Anybody could have listened to that meeting," he said of the Helsinki meeting. "That meeting is up for grabs."

Democrats voiced a much different view of the matter.

"When he takes the interpreter's notes and wants to destroy them so no one can see what was said in written transcript, you know it raises serious questions about the relationship between this president and Putin," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told ABC's "This Week" in January.

The chairmen's request comes hours after House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., made a request for documents from more than 80 people or entities connected to the president as part of that committee's Trump investigation.

"I cooperate all the time with everybody," Trump said Monday in response to Nadler's request, adding, "You know, beautiful thing, no collusion. It's a total hoax."