No record

We knew this, but we didn’t know all of it. Trump talks to Putin alone except for the translator, and he does his best to keep the secrets. I hope the FBI has listening devices implanted in his nose, his constantly flapping hands, his teeth, his bum.

President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson.

That presents an interesting scenario. A White House adviser and a senior State Department official ask the interpreter what was said in a meeting with a hostile head of state, and the interpreter responded that Trump said “keep shtum.”

U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.

“Unusual” is a good deal too tactful. “Suspicious as fuck” is more like it.

After this story was published online, Trump said in an interview late Saturday with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro that he did not take particular steps to conceal his private meetings with Putin and attacked The Washington Post and its owner Jeffrey P. Bezos.

He said he talked with Putin about Israel, among other subjects. “Anyone could have listened to that meeting. That meeting is open for grabs,” he said, without offering specifics.

Except that it isn’t. That was reported at the time: Trump talked to Putin with only Putin’s translator present. That meeting is not “open for grabs.”

Former U.S. officials said that Trump’s behavior is at odds with the known practices of previous presidents, who have relied on senior aides to witness meetings and take comprehensive notes then shared with other officials and departments.

Because previous presidents at least grasped that meeting with representatives of other countries is a national enterprise, not a personal one. It’s the administration doing it, not The One Holy Boss doing it. Trump alone is both too corrupt and too stupid to grasp that.

Trump’s secrecy surrounding Putin “is not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous,” said Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state now at the Brookings Institution, who participated in more than a dozen meetings between President Bill Clinton and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. “It handicaps the U.S. government — the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve [the president] — and it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump.”

And it gives Trump much more scope to sell us out to Putin right under our noses.

Trump allies said the president thinks the presence of subordinates impairs his ability to establish a rapport with Putin and that his desire for secrecy may also be driven by embarrassing leaks that occurred early in his presidency.

The meeting in Hamburg happened several months after The Washington Post and other news organizations revealed details about what Trump had told senior Russian officials during a meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office. Trump disclosed classified information about a terrorism plot, called former FBI director James B. Comey a “nut job” and said that firing Comey had removed “great pressure” on his relationship with Russia.

All of which adds up to very good reasons never to let Trump talk to anyone alone until he is no longer president. It does not add up to a fine reason for Trump to keep his talks with Putin a secret.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview that his panel will form an investigative subcommittee whose targets will include seeking State Department records of Trump’s encounters with Putin, including a closed-door meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki last summer.

“It’s been several months since Helsinki and we still don’t know what went on in that meeting,” Engel said. “It’s appalling. It just makes you want to scratch your head.”

No, it makes me want to see Trump out of there yesterday.

Here’s an interesting bit:

Because of the absence of any reliable record of Trump’s conversations with Putin, officials at times have had to rely on reports by U.S. intelligence agencies tracking the reaction in the Kremlin.

Previous presidents and senior advisers have often studied such reports to assess whether they had accomplished their objectives in meetings as well as to gain insights for future conversations.

U.S. intelligence agencies have been reluctant to call attention to such reports during Trump’s presidency because they have at times included comments by foreign officials disparaging the president or his advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a former senior administration official said.

“There was more of a reticence in the intelligence community going after those kinds of communications and reporting them,” said a former administration official who worked in the White House. “The feedback tended not to be positive.”

Seriously? The intelligence people hang back from “going after those kinds of communications” because they say harsh things about Kushner and other Trump hacks? Seriously? Intelligence is compromised to spare the feelings of Trump’s gang of corrupt incompetents?

Notice how screwed we are if so. Trump’s gang of corrupt incompetents are terrible ludicrous disgusting people, so “the feedback” on them is always going to be less than “positive,” so because they are so terrible and disgusting, we can’t get intel on how their efforts to hand us over to Putin are going. That sounds like a very sour joke.

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