FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House has rejected a request by Democratic lawmakers to provide information about President Donald Trump’s communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to media reports on Thursday.
The White House sent its denial in a letter to Congress, according to reports by The Hill newspaper and CNN.
U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel and Elijah Cummings, the chairmen of the House of Representatives Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, respectively, had asked the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in early March for documents and interviews about Trump’s conversations with Putin.
The lawmakers expressed concern about media reports that Trump seized notes on at least one meeting with the Russian leader and tried to destroy records about those talks.
In his response, White House counsel Pat Cipollone said a president’s communications with foreign leaders are confidential and protected by executive privilege.
“The president must be free to engage in discussions with foreign leaders without fear that those communications will be disclosed and used as fodder for partisan political purposes,” Cipollone wrote in the letter to the committee chairmen, according to The Hill.
The request for information about communications with Putin followed the powerful House Judiciary Committee’s demand for documents from a who’s who of Trump’s turbulent world, targeting 81 people, government agencies and other groups in an investigation of possible obstruction of justice or abuse of power.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott