In the aftermath of the Trump-Putin meeting, some US lawmakers demand to question Trump’s translator, who was part of the meeting in regard to the promises made by the US president on behalf of the people. Furthermore, Congress is preparing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2.
In the two-hour talk between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin the only other American in the room was Maria Gross. She has worked as a translator for the State Department for years. Democrats are calling for her to testify in front of Congress about what really happened in the closed-doors meeting. The issue is, however, that Republicans control Congress and they are the ones that need to issue the subpoena.
So far there has been no talk of whether Trump’s translator would be debriefed at all. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee initiated the call for the questioning of the translator. She wrote the following on twitter, as quoted by Daily Mail:
“I’m calling for a hearing with the U.S. interpreter who was present during President Trump’s meeting with Putin to uncover what they discussed privately. This interpreter can help determine what @POTUS shared/promised Putin on our behalf.”
Other Democratic congressmen followed suit.
The only challenge before their demand is that Republic control both chambers of Congress and only the party in power can issue a congressional subpoena. As reported by the Daily Mail – Democratic Rep. Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, wrote to the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee and asked him to bring Gross in for testimony. It is unprecedented to call a translator to reveal details of a private meeting between the President and another world leader, however Democratic congressmen claim that Trump’s conduct is also as unprecedented. Another Republican senator, John Thune of South Dakota, said having the translator give testimony was “highly unlikely,” CNN Politics reports. He claims that the Translator is a person who is not versed in policy and will not have the capacity or ability to explain what went on during the meeting. Another reason he named was that the Maria Gross was probably focused on rendering the best possible translation and not on the essence of what was being discussed. He finished with “seems to me asking the translator is a bit of a stretch.”
Due to outrage after Trump’s press conference after the meeting where he sided with Putin and threw US intelligence under the bus, interest in Gross’s position has increased. If the two leaders reached an undisclosed understanding, she as a federal civil servant who has sworn to protect the Constitution would know about it.
CNN Politics reports that Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he is looking into whether it is appropriate to subpoena the State Department Translator. His words, as quoted by CNN Politics are “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.”
Because of the blowback of Helsinki, Trump issued a walk-back of sorts, claiming he meant to use a double negative and indicate that Russia was actually responsible for the election meddling, Daily Mail reports.
Additionally, amid a trade war with European allies and tensions following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump opened the summit with a critique of allies’ failure to meet their spending commitments. He saved particularly pointed words for Germany, which he called out for not paying its fair share – and for its plans to build a second pipeline to bring Russian gas to the country. Trump went as far as to called Nord Stream 2 a tragic mistake and that the gas and oil purchased from Russia made Germany a captive. As Handelsblatt reports, Trump may be right in expressing worry over Germany’s reliance on Russian gas, however he is in the wrong when it comes to conflating the pipeline with NATO spending.
On July 18th, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming introduced a bill to US Congress aimed at imposing sanctions to Nord Stream 2, a report was issued by his press service. It claims that it introduces an escape from Russia’s political coercion and manipulation to NATO members. It also states: “The Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe Act, or the “ESCAPE Act,” enhances the energy security of NATO members by providing those countries with reliable and dependable American energy. It also mandates sanctions on the Nord Stream II pipeline that would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany, along with other Russian energy export pipelines.” The legislation’s sanctions are as follows: The President shall impose 5 or more of the sanctions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act to any party that assists Russia or does business with it in regard to energy export pipelines. Ukraine is also adamantly opposed to the construction of Nord Stream 2, as 112 International reports. Other EU countries have also expressed disagreement with the project, namely Poland and Lithuania.