During their summit in Helsinki on Monday, President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir one-on-one, without a notetaker, as is customary. The move attracted criticism from both sides of the aisle, and calls for the only other American in the room — Trump’s translator — to testify before Congress about what was said.
Who is the Trump translator?
Trump’s translator, Marina Gross, is a longtime State Department interpreter. According to CNN, she has years of experience as a translator and had previously been seen alongside former first lady Laura Bush and sat with former secretary of state Rex Tillerson during his March 2017 visit to Moscow.
A State Department official told CNN that Gross is a “longtime and respected civil servant” and Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, called Gross “absolutely fantastic” in a tweet on July 16.
Fiona Hill is the only woman in the meeting (besides our translator, who by the way, is absolutely fantastic !) https://t.co/XggcLxP6bz
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) July 16, 2018
As skilled an interpreter as Gross may be, the function of an interpreter is different from a notetaker, who is charged with recording exactly what occurred and what promises were made. Gross was photographed with a notepad, but interpreters only jot occasional notes to ensure they have the correct translation.
After the summit, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to compel Gross to testify before Congress. On Thursday, the committee chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), said he preferred not to. “It feels a little out of bounds,” Corker told reporters. “We are in countries where we have translators that meet with us. They know nothing about foreign policy, most of them. I just think we are getting into a pretty weird area when you are going to start asking the translator for their notes.”
Corker said he wanted to learn what happened from secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who will testify at a public hearing in Congress next week. “Let’s have this hearing on Wednesday and see what we can learn through normal channels,” said Corker, who did not rule out subpoenaing Gross in the future.
Another former U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, told CNN that State Department translators “keep notes and keep a record” and that Gross had likely been debriefed by national security advisers John Bolton or Fiona Hill, or the National Security Council. “I’m sure we have a pretty good sense of what happened in that meeting,” he said.