President Donald Trump has taken pains to hide details of his communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin from his own administration — even going so far as to take notes from his interpreter and order the linguist to stay silent, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
The officials said they found out about the apparent concealment when a White House adviser and a State Department official tried to get information from the interpreter beyond a separate readout provided by Tillerson.
A White House spokesman told The Post on condition of anonymity that Tillerson’s readout of the Hamburg meeting was “fulsome” and delivered to US officials immediately afterward — and a readout was given to the press.
The spokesman added that Trump has tried to “improve the relationship with Russia” and “imposed significant new sanctions in response to Russian malign activities.”
The White House did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Tillerson told The Post in an email that he “was present for the entirety of the two presidents’ official bilateral meeting in Hamburg,” but declined to comment on the meeting and whether Trump had taken the interpreter’s notes.
Tillerson has previously discussed the Hamburg meeting, telling reporters at a news conference that Trump “pressed” Putin on allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, which Putin denied.
But though Tillerson had declined during the news conference to say whether Trump had accepted or rejected Putin‘s denial, Trump administration officials said the only detail the interpreter would give them was that Trump responded by telling Putin, “I believe you.”
It’s unclear whether Trump has taken interpreters’ notes on more than one occasion, but several officials told The Post they never received a reliable readout from Trump and Putin‘s meeting in Helsinki in July 2018, which no Cabinet officials or Trump aides attended.