Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell boldly accused President Trump of having “effectively destroyed” notes from his one-on-one meeting in Helsinki, Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin -- without citing evidence.
Swalwell, D-Calif., in an interview on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” said the question has “shifted” from “whether the president is working with the Russians” to “what evidence exists that the president is not working with the Russians?”
“I think that an unwillingness to sit down with the special counsel demonstrates a continued effort to obstruct and delay the inevitable,” Swalwell, who is eyeing a 2020 presidential bid, told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.
When asked if House Democrats plan to subpoena the president’s interpreter who has attended meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Swalwell claimed that “now we know” the notes from the 2018 summit in Helsinki have been “effectively destroyed” by the president.
Cooper challenged him on that point. “You say that the notes, the interpreter’s notes have been ‘effectively destroyed.’ I know that [House Intel Committee] Chairman Schiff a few moments ago questioned [whether] the interpreter’s notes have been destroyed. Do you know that they have been?” Cooper asked.
“If Donald Trump took them, as the Washington Post story states, then they’re effectively in the hands of the subject and, you know, I don’t trust Donald Trump to turn them over,” Swalwell responded. “We actually know in the past that he’s known to just rip up important pieces of paper and destroy them -- notes that are important for presidential records. There’s been reporting on that. So I see it as we have no way of obtaining the physical evidence now other than getting it from Donald Trump, someone who’s been wholly uncooperative.”
Swalwell’s claims come after a Washington Post report that Trump took possession of the notes from his own interpreter and instructed the individual not to discuss what had taken place in the meeting with other administration officials.
The report said that Trump took the notes after a meeting with Putin in Hamburg in 2017, where his former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was present. The report also said there are no detailed records of Trump’s private meetings with Putin over the past two years, and his administration officials still have not been given a full readout from their summit in Helsinki, Finland last summer.
The Post did not report that Trump destroyed the notes.
The report fueled suspicions from Democrats, including Swalwell, who have long alleged Trump is too close to Russia, and are closely watching Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion—which Trump regularly slams as an unfounded “witch hunt.”
This week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., hinted that he could subpoena notes or testimony from the interpreter in several meetings between President Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“Six months ago, @RepAdamSchiff and I tried to subpoena the interpreter from the Trump-Putin meeting. The GOP blocked us. We knew then something was fishy. We now know Trump took the notes. Lost time and more damage to our democracy is the cost of GOP obstruction,” Swalwell tweeted Sunday.
Last year, Schiff and Swalwell attempted to subpoena the interpreter but were blocked by the committee’s then-Republican majority—with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., leading his own probe into the Russia allegations and the DOJ and FBI’s handling of them. At the time, Nunes said he could not “entertain any such request.”
Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.