President Trump has "gone to extraordinary lengths" to hide details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including from his own administration staff, The Washington Postreported Saturday evening. In one case, Trump reportedly took his own interpreter's notes from a call with Putin and told the interpreter not to discuss the talk with other officials.
Trump vehemently denied the report in a phone interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro late Saturday, saying he'd happily share information on his meeting with Putin in Finland last year.
"I'm not keeping anything under wraps, I couldn't care less," Trump said. "I had a conversation like every president does," he added. "You sit with the president of various countries. I do it with all countries." Trump then attacked The Washington Post and its owner, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and said the suggestion he has ever worked on Moscow's behalf is "insulting."
If the Post report is correct, said former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Trump's secrecy "is not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous. It handicaps the U.S. government — the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve [the president] — and it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump." Bonnie Kristian
The SF-86 form requires that a person list "any contact" they or their family had with a "foreign government" or its "representatives" over the last seven years, officials told CNN, and Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times in 2016, did not mention these encounters. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN that Sessions and his staff were told by the FBI they did not need to list meetings he had with foreign ambassadors that took place while he was still a senator.
"My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business," Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney specializing in national security law, told CNN. During his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year, Sessions, an early Trump supporter, also did not disclose his interactions with Kislyak. Catherine Garcia