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Trump denies seizing notes of interpreter at Putin talks

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Visit: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcomed by Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Reuters

Visit: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcomed by Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Reuters

REUTERS

Visit: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcomed by Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Reuters

Donald Trump has rejected allegations that he tried to keep secret his conversations with Vladimir Putin by confiscating his own interpreter's notes.

He also insisted he was "insulted" the FBI had investigated whether he was working for the Kremlin.

Mr Trump was said to have seized the interpreter's notes after a private meeting with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg in July 2017.

He also told the linguist not to discuss with other US diplomats and security officials what was said in the meeting, the 'Washington Post' reported.

The report came a day after it emerged that, following the firing of FBI director James Comey in May 2017, the agency opened an investigation into whether Mr Trump was working, intentionally or unintentionally, for the Kremlin, and to see whether he posed a national security risk.

Mr Trump lambasted the fresh Russia-related developments, phoning in to Fox News to call them "ridiculous".

One of its hosts, Jeanine Pirro, a friend of the president, asked him: "Are you now, or have you ever, worked for Russia, Mr President?" The president responded: "I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked."

Denying he had sought to keep the conversations secret, he added: "I'm not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn't care less. I have many one-on-one meetings, nobody ever says anything about it, but with Putin they say, 'Oh what did they talk about?' We talked about very positive things. Anybody could have listened to that meeting, that meeting is open for grabs."

Asked whether he would release conversations with Mr Putin, he said: "I would, I don't care," adding that they were "great conversations".

Mr Trump never answered Ms Pirro directly, but went on to assert that no president has taken a harder stance against Russia than he had.

Mr Trump's claim was disputed by Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He said almost all the sanctions on Russia arose not in the White House but in Congress, due to concerns by members of both parties about Moscow's actions.

Mr Trump's officials have complained there are few detailed records of his five meetings with Mr Putin, including one in Helsinki last summer that lasted two hours.

That compares with copious public notes of meetings between previous presidents and Russian leaders.

The officials said they were being left in the dark as to how to deal with Russia, and fear Mr Trump may be left open to manipulation by Mr Putin.

However, allies of Mr Trump suggested he had sought to restrict notes of his conversations with world leaders because his own officials kept leaking them. With more confidence that details would not leak out, Mr Trump was able to establish better personal relationships with world leaders, including Mr Putin, they said.

The suggestion the interpreter, who has not been named, had been told to keep quiet emerged after officials from the State Department and National Security Council approached him to find out more about what had been said. The interpreter told them his notes had been taken and he was not allowed to discuss the meeting.

Rex Tillerson, then Mr Trump's secretary of state, was also at the Hamburg meeting. He said much of it focused on Syria but did not give a detailed account to other officials. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the suggestion Mr Trump tried to silence an interpreter was "so outrageously inaccurate it doesn't even warrant a response".

The news came as the government shutdown extended to a record 23rd day with a Republican close to Mr Trump saying the president is not giving in on his demands for $5.7bn (€4.97bn) for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Lindsey Graham said he encouraged Mr Trump to reopen government for a period of weeks to try to negotiate a deal with Democrats, but that Mr Trump wants a deal first.

Telegraph.co.uk