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Pascrell Calls on Oversight Committee to Interview Putin Meeting Interpreter

Washington, DC, July 17, 2018

Today, U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) penned a letter to Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-SC-04) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD-07), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, demanding the Committee hear public testimony from Marina Gross, the United States' interpreter for Donald Trump in his meeting on July 16, 2018 with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

I write to urge you to request a hearing with the American translator to testify publicly before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the details of Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018,” Pascrell writes the committee leaders.

Rather than condemn Russia for attacking the United States during the 2016 presidential election, Trump avoided even tepid criticism of Vladimir Putin in Finland. When Trump was asked about the state of relations between the United States and Russia, he criticized the U.S. as responsible for their frayed state. Trump cited Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “disaster for our country” and insisted there was “no collusion” between his campaign and the Russian government. Additionally, Trump and his family continue to maintain positions in their business empire, even while several of them occupy high-ranking government positions. In the past, Trump’s children have touted their reliance on Russian money, and the Trump Corporation has sold tens of millions of properties in all-cash purchases to Russian buyers.

“Given this history, the American people deserve to know if Trump used his position or this meeting with Putin to continue to pursue his own financial interests,” Pascrell writes. “We need public testimony by the only American present at this meeting to ensure Trump did not further undermine our intelligence or law enforcement communities.”

A copy of the letter is available here. The full text of the letter appears below.

July 17, 2018

The Honorable Trey Gowdy                                                 The Honorable Elijah Cummings

Chairman                                                                               Ranking Member

House Committee on                                                             House Committee on

Oversight and Government Reform                                      Oversight and Government Reform

2157 Rayburn House Office Building                                  2471 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515                                                       Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Gowdy and Ranking Member Cummings:

Given the public concessions President Trump made to Russian President Vladimir Putin by siding against the U.S. intelligence community, law enforcement, and our military officials about Russia’s attack on our democracy, Congress and the American public deserve to know the details of their private conversation. Serving as a translator, it has been reported that Ms. Marina Gross was the only other American in the room and so the sole reliable witness to the conversation between the two world leaders. I write to urge you to request a hearing with the American translator to testify publicly before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the details of Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018. If she will not answer questions upon request, I urge you to compel her testimony with a subpoena.

Rather than condemn Russia for attacking the United States during the 2016 presidential election, Trump avoided even tepid criticism of Vladimir Putin in Finland. When Trump was asked about the state of relations between the United States and Russia, he criticized the U.S. as responsible for their frayed state. Furthermore, Trump cited Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “disaster for our country” and insisted there was “no collusion” between his campaign and the Russian government. We need public testimony by the only American present at this meeting to ensure Trump did not further undermine our intelligence or law enforcement communities.

Last year, Trump revealed highly classified, “code-word,” information about a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador at the White House. The information the President relayed was provided to our intelligence community by an ally, details of which were tightly restricted even within our government. To safeguard our intelligence sources and methods, and those our allies share with us, we need to know the details of the meeting in Helsinki to make sure Trump did not reveal any additional classified information.

We also need to know what was agreed to behind closed doors because Russia is now claiming they are ready to implement agreements between Trump and Putin that were not announced during the joint news conference in Helsinki.

Finally, as President, we know Trump and some members of his family continue to maintain positions in their business empire, all while occupying public positions in the government. For instance:

·         Forbes’ has reported that Trump made at least $175 million last year from commercial tenants, including the state-owned Industrial & Commercial Bank of China.[1] Yet, since he took office, the government of China has granted Trump at least 39 trademarks, some of which were previously rejected.[2] And his daughter Ivanka Trump has received at least seven trademarks from the government of China since she joined the administration in a senior position.[3]

·         Earlier this year, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. took a trip to India, where he used his political ties to advance his family’s business interests. He delivered a speech on “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” at an event attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other high-ranking Indian government officials. This trip ultimately netted $15 million in real estate sales for a Trump Towers project.[4]

·         Over the years, the Trump family has bragged about their financial connections to Russia. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” claimed Donald Trump Jr. in 2008.[5] And Trump’s son Eric Trump boasted in 2014, “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”[6] While it is hard to know the full extent of Trump’s financial connections to Russia because he still refuses to release his tax returns, we know that from 2003 to 2017, people from the former USSR made 86 all-cash purchases — a known channel for money laundering — of Trump properties, totaling $109 million.[7] According to reports, Trump’s companies sold more than $35 million in real estate last year to secretive shell companies that obscure buyers’ identities.[8] Further, Donald Trump was pursuing a plan to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow while he was running for President.[9]

Given this history, the American people deserve to know if Trump used his position or this meeting with Putin to continue to pursue his own financial interests.

It may be unprecedented to subpoena a translator to reveal the details of a private meeting between the President and another world leader, but Trump’s actions are unprecedented in a way that harms our national security. The American public deserves to know if the President made any further concessions, revealed national security secrets, or tried to profit off the presidency. The only way to answer this question is by compelling the American translator to testify publicly. To that end, I urge you to subpoena the U.S. translator so the American people can get more insight into the dangerous, jaw-dropping performance we saw from Trump in Helsinki.

Sincerely,

Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Member of Congress

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[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/danalexander/2018/02/13/trump-conflicts-of-interest-tenants-donald-business-organization-real-estate-assets-pay/#4a5f235748f9

[2] https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/14/trump-continues-to-collect-trademarks-in-china/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/28/business/ivanka-trump-china-trademarks.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/sen-menendez-probes-whether-us-officials-helped-trump-jr-on-speech-india-trip/2018/02/22/387ae5c1-bc69-415f-9176-fe6ad308d17f_story.html?utm_term=.b1704276c0ae

[5] http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-jr-said-money-pouring-in-from-russia-2018-2

[6] https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/05/eric-trump-russia-investment-golf-course

[7] https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article210477439.html

[8] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/01/10/trumps-secretive-real-estate-sales-continue-unabated/1018530001/

[9] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-business-sought-deal-on-a-trump-tower-in-moscow-while-he-ran-for-president/2017/08/27/d6e95114-8b65-11e7-91d5-ab4e4bb76a3a_story.html?utm_term=.d7bbe1854a46

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