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115th Congress    }                                        {     Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session       }                                        {    115-978


                        PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN


 September 25, 2018.--Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be 


    Mr. Royce of California, from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, 
                        submitted the following

                             ADVERSE REPORT

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                      [To accompany H. Res. 1017]

    The Committee on Foreign Affairs, to whom was referred the 
resolution (H. Res. 1017) requesting the President, and 
directing the Secretary of State, to transmit to the House of 
Representatives copies of all documents, records, 
communications, transcripts, summaries, notes, memoranda, and 
read-aheads in their possession referring or relating to 
certain communications between President Donald Trump and 
President Vladimir Putin, having considered the same, report 
unfavorably thereon without amendment and recommend that the 
resolution not be agreed to.

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

Summary..........................................................     2
Background.......................................................     2
Committee Consideration and Vote.................................     4
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     5
New Budget Authority, Tax Expenditures, and Federal Mandates.....     5
Directed Rule Making.............................................     5
Non-Duplication of Federal Programs..............................     5
Performance Goals and Objectives.................................     5
Congressional Accountability Act.................................     5
New Advisory Committees..........................................     5
Earmark Identification...........................................     6
Section-by-Section Analysis......................................     6
Dissenting Views.................................................     7


    House Resolution 1017 requests the President, and directs 
the Secretary of State, to provide the House of Representatives 
with copies of every document, record, communication, 
transcript, summary, note, memorandum, and read-ahead in the 
possession of the President or the Secretary of State that 
refer or relate to matters proposed, discussed, agreed to or 
otherwise covered during, in connection with, or in preparation 
for communications between President Donald Trump and Russian 
President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 15 or 
July 16, 2018.


    According to House rules and precedents, House Resolution 
1017 qualifies for consideration as a resolution of inquiry, 
one of the methods sometimes used by the House to obtain 
information held by the executive branch. Although the 
resolution does not have any cosponsors (far short of the 25 
Members, including 10 committee members, typically required 
under committee rules), clause 7 of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House directs the committee to act on resolutions of 
inquiry within 14 legislative days. Otherwise, a privileged 
motion to discharge the committee is in order on the House 
floor. The privilege under House rules is the only reason the 
committee considered this measure, which the chairman opposed 
and the committee reported adversely.
    During the past several years, the Committee on Foreign 
Affairs has conducted hard-hitting, bipartisan oversight of 
U.S. policy toward Russia, resulting in significant 
legislation, some of which is detailed below. Unfortunately, 
House Resolution 1017 does not fall into that category.
    This partisan resolution clearly intrudes into judicially 
recognized areas of executive privilege, and, if pursued, would 
likely require years of contested--and ultimately fruitless--
litigation. Even if it were somehow to prevail, the resolution 
would set a dangerous and harmful precedent with respect to 
presidential communications. It demands from the President 
every document, communication, transcript, summary, note, or 
memo that relates to matters proposed, discussed, agreed to, or 
otherwise covered during, in connection with, or in preparation 
for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 
Helsinki, Finland back in July of this year.
    Opposing this resolution has nothing to do with supporting 
the President's statements at the Helsinki summit. Both at the 
time and subsequently, Chairman Royce has publicly stated his 
strong disagreement with the President's remarks at the July 
16, 2018 press conference, and has noted that Vladimir Putin is 
not our friend, and that there is simply no comparing the 
actions of the United States with those of Putin's Russia. 
Ultimately, the Helsinki summit was a squandered opportunity to 
challenge Vladimir Putin's false narratives on issues including 
Ukraine, Syria, and Russia's ongoing interference in our 
    While House Resolution 1017 may appeal to some for partisan 
political reasons, it ultimately is not a wise approach to 
oversight, and would threaten and distract from the bipartisan 
legislative and investigative efforts of the committee.
    The resolution's extraordinarily broad demand for documents 
conflicts with the strongest form of executive privilege 
recognized by the courts, the so-called ``presidential 
communications privilege.'' Rooted in the constitutional 
separation of powers, presidential communications privilege 
applies to direct decision-making by the President and also 
protects communications made, solicited, or received by his 
close advisors while preparing advice for him. Among other 
things, it helps to ensure that the President receives the 
candid and unfiltered advice necessary to fulfill the 
constitutional responsibilities of the office. While not 
absolute, these privileges are at their strongest when they 
deal with the President's core constitutional powers, such as 
his authority to conduct diplomatic discussions with foreign 
leaders. Once asserted, the presidential communications 
privilege presumptively applies, and the legal burden is on the 
party seeking to overcome the privilege.
    Concern for protecting these constitutional prerogatives is 
not new. In fact, it stretches back to the beginning of our 
Republic, and was the view expressed by President George 
Washington when he was presented with the first resolution of 
inquiry from the House of Representatives, 218 years ago:

        ``The nature of foreign negotiations requires caution, 
        and their success must often depend on secrecy; . . . 
        [A] full disclosure of all the measures, demands, or 
        eventual concessions which may have been proposed or 
        contemplated . . . might have a pernicious influence on 
        future negotiations, or produce immediate 
        inconveniences, perhaps danger and mischief, in 
        relation to other powers . . . . To admit, then, a 
        right in the House of Representatives to demand and to 
        have as a matter of course all the papers respecting a 
        negotiation with a foreign power would be to establish 
        a dangerous precedent.'' [George Washington, Message to 
        the House Regarding Documents Relative to the Jay 
        Treaty (March 30, 1796).]

    Even in today's world of mass media and instant 
communications, presidents still have and need the authority to 
meet, speak, and negotiate privately with foreign leaders.
    Consider the historic 1978 Camp David Accords, a diplomatic 
triumph that strengthened our national security. That agreement 
was preceded by two weeks of confidential negotiations among 
the American, Israeli and Egyptian heads of state, sequestered 
in the woods of Maryland. During that time, some were genuinely 
concerned that President Carter might undermine the security of 
our ally Israel. Yet Congress was not privy to every utterance.
    By constitutional design, Members of Congress are not in 
the room for all such discussions. The House majority did not 
demand transcripts of every conversation President Obama had 
with the Russians when, in March 2012, an open microphone 
caught him asking President Medvedev for some ``space'' on 
missile defense issues, explaining that he would have ``more 
flexibility'' after his November 2012 reelection.
    House Resolution 1017 has implications far beyond our 
current President or our last President. It concerns the 
ability of all presidents to engage with foreign leaders.
    Unfortunately, this resolution goes against the grain of 
this committee's important, bipartisan work to confront 
Russia's dangerous acts, which has included:

         LPowerful sanctions on Russian hackers and 
        intelligence agencies, passed as part of the Countering 
        America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (Public Law 
        115-44), which the administration needs to better 

         LAdditional sanctions to punish Russia for 
        propping up the murderous Assad regime in Syria (H.R. 
        1677), which the Senate needs to pass and send on to 
        the President's desk;

         LSuccessfully pushing for the imposition of 
        new mandatory Russia sanctions under the Chemical and 
        Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act (22 
        U.S.C. 5604(b)), following Russia's use of a military-
        grade chemical weapon to poison British citizen Sergei 
        Skripal and his daughter on British soil;

         LCreating a strong, reformed export controls 
        process that will better protect U.S. advances in 
        emerging technology like robotics and artificial 
        intelligence (Subtitle B of Title XVII of Public Law 

         LLegislatively authorizing the President to 
        provide defensive military systems to Ukraine, and to 
        strengthen its cyber defenses against Russian attacks;

         LReforming the Broadcasting Board of Governors 
        to help revitalize U.S. efforts to counter Russian 
        propaganda and disinformation;

         LEnacting the Global Magnitsky Human Rights 
        Accountability Act (Sec. 1261 et seq. of Public Law 
        114-328)- named after a Russian businessman who was 
        murdered by corrupt Russian authorities--to hold 
        regimes accountable for human rights abuses; and

         LPassing the Cyber Deterrence and Response Act 
        (H.R. 5576), to name, shame and sanction foreign actors 
        who carry out cyber attacks against the United States.

    These activities--rather than constitutionally 
questionable, partisan maneuvers with little chance of 
success--are the types of activities that should continue to 
occupy the Committee on Foreign Affairs. For these reasons, the 
committee voted to express its opposition to House Resolution 

                    Committee Consideration and Vote

    On September 13, 2018, the committee marked up House 
Resolution 1017 pursuant to notice, in open session. The 
committee agreed to a motion to report the resolution adversely 
to the House by a record vote of 23 ayes to 18 noes.
    On the vote to report H. Res. 1017 to the House adversely:
          Voting aye: Royce, Smith (NJ), Ros-Lehtinen, 
        Rohrabacher, Chabot, Wilson (SC), McCaul, Marino, 
        Brooks, Cook, Perry, Meadows, Yoho, Kinzinger, Zeldin, 
        Donovan, Sensenbrenner, Wagner, Mast, Rooney, 
        Fitzpatrick, Garrett, and Curtis.
          Voting no: Engel, Sherman, Sires, Connolly, Deutch, 
        Keating, Cicilline, Bera, Frankel, Castro, Kelly (IL), 
        Boyle, Titus, Torres, Schneider, Suozzi, Espaillat, and 

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of Rules of 
the House of Representatives, the committee reports that 
findings and recommendations of the committee, based on 
oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of House Rule X, are 
incorporated in the descriptive portions of this report, 
particularly in the ``Background'' section.

      New Budget Authority, Tax Expenditures, and Federal Mandates

    Clause 3(c)(2) of House Rule XIII and the Unfunded Mandates 
Reform Act (Public Law 104-4) are inapplicable because House 
Resolution 1017 does not provide new budget authority or 
increased tax expenditures.

                          Directed Rule Making

    Pursuant to clause 3(c) of House Rule XIII, as modified by 
section 3(i) of H. Res. 5 during the 115th Congress, the 
committee notes that House Resolution 1017 contains no directed 
rule-making provisions.

                  Non-Duplication of Federal Programs

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(5) of House Rule XIII, the 
committee states that no provision of this resolution 
establishes or reauthorizes a program of the Federal Government 
known to be duplicative of another Federal program, a program 
that was included in any report from the Government 
Accountability Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of 
Public Law 111-139, or a program related to a program 
identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic 

                    Performance Goals and Objectives

    The rule requiring a statement of performance goals and 
objectives is inapplicable to this resolution.

                    Congressional Accountability Act

    House Resolution 1017 does not apply to terms and 
conditions of employment or to access to public services or 
accommodations within the legislative branch.

                        New Advisory Committees

    House Resolution 1017 does not establish or authorize any 
new advisory committees.

                         Earmark Identification

    House Resolution 1017 contains no congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as described 
in clauses 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of House Rule XXI.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

    The resolution is comprised of a single clause identifying 
the materials being requested from the President and the 
Secretary of State.

                            Dissenting Views

    H. Res. 1017 is a resolution of inquiry introduced by 
Congressman Brendan Boyle on July 24, 2018 to further the 
oversight duties of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 
related to President Trump's dealings with President Vladimir 
Putin of the Russian Federation.
    Congress has a constitutional responsibility to conduct 
oversight of the executive branch. To fulfill this duty, 
Congress regularly requests and directs the executive branch to 
provide relevant congressional committees with documents and 
information related to the President's conduct of international 
relations. This has been true since our country was founded.
    Rule X of the House of Representatives charges the 
Committee on Foreign Affairs with oversight of United States 
relations with foreign nations. To fulfill this responsibility, 
our committee must obtain documents and other information 
related to the President's meetings with foreign leaders. 
Unfortunately, despite repeated requests, our committee still 
has not conducted basic oversight of President Trump's 
interactions with President Putin. We have not received 
briefings or relevant documents from the executive branch. H. 
Res. 1017 would help rectify this gap.
    In accordance with the standard procedures for resolutions 
of inquiry, H. Res.1017 would request that the President, and 
direct that the Secretary of State, transmit to the House of 
Representatives copies of documents in their possession that 
refer or relate to matters covered during, in connection with, 
or in preparation for communications between President Donald 
Trump and President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 
15 or July 16, 2018.
    President Trump's visit with President Putin consisted of 
two parts--a private meeting with President Putin, attended by 
only one Russian and one American interpreter, and a joint 
press conference following the meeting. The visit took place 
just days after the 2018 North Atlantic Treaty Organization 
(NATO) Summit and a trip to the United Kingdom, where President 
Trump repeatedly undermined and insulted our closest allies and 
the NATO alliance.
    Building on these counterproductive actions, the President 
used the press conference to undermine America's intelligence 
community. The January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, 
``Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. 
Elections,'' released by the Office of the Director of National 
Intelligence, concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 
presidential election to undermine public faith in the U.S. 
democratic process and help the Trump campaign. Despite this 
conclusion, President Trump stood side-by-side with President 
Putin to publicly accept the Russian president's denials.
    In addition to these disturbing actions, President Trump 
did not allow any aides to attend his meeting with President 
Putin. Although some have sought to characterize this decision 
as routine, it was highly unusual. Under normal circumstances, 
an American president would include aides in a meeting with a 
foreign head of state. These aides would be responsible for 
providing additional information to the President, answering 
questions, and taking notes to ensure the United States 
Government could maintain an accurate account of the topics 
discussed and any decisions or commitments made.
    Due to President Trump's choice to conduct this meeting in 
secret, no one in the United States Government, aside from 
President Trump and one interpreter, truly know what was 
discussed. Disturbingly, the Russian Government appears to have 
a better understanding of what transpired in the meeting than 
members of our own government. Senior American officials, 
including the Secretaries of State and Defense, as well as the 
Director of National Intelligence, were left in the dark as to 
what occurred.
    None of these senior officials can reliably testify to 
Congress on the Trump-Putin meeting because none of them were 
present. Thus, to conduct oversight, Congress must rely on 
written records that the Administration produced prior to and 
after the meeting. Unfortunately, President Trump, in his 
continued quest for secrecy, has not shared relevant documents 
with Congress. This lack of transparency would be troubling 
under any circumstances, but it is especially concerning in the 
face of numerous unresolved questions about Russia's role in 
the 2016 presidential election and President Trump's Russian 
business ties.
    Although the President could attempt to argue that some 
documents described in this resolution are subject to executive 
privilege, this does not provide a good justification for 
refusing to pass the resolution. Assertions of executive 
privilege are not absolute. If the President did assert 
privilege, Congress could overcome the assertion by showing a 
sufficient need for the information. Additionally, the 
President could choose not to assert privilege. In just one 
example, President Reagan chose not to assert privilege for 
numerous documents, including excerpts from his personal 
diaries, during congressional oversight of the Iran-Contra 
affair. Ultimately, executive privilege belongs to the 
executive. Congress does not need to assert it for him in this 
    Similarly, documents could be provided to Congress in 
classified form, thus protecting sensitive national security 
information that may have been discussed in relation to the 
Trump-Putin meeting. Congress receives classified information 
from the executive branch on a daily basis as part of our 
normal course of business. Yet the majority on the committee 
has not been willing to explore this option with respect to 
this resolution.
    By choosing to report the resolution adversely, our 
colleagues in the majority are keeping Congress and the 
American people in the dark. In light of President Trump's 
disturbing pattern of highly unusual comments and actions on 
Russia and NATO, there is no justification for voting against 
    We are disappointed that the Majority refused to support 
this effort, choosing to provide cover to the President rather 
than fulfilling their obligations under the Constitution and 
the Rules of the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, we 
remain committed to putting our country's national security 
first and using all of the tools at our disposal to carefully 
scrutinize President Trump's efforts to hide his dealings with 
President Putin.

                                   Brendan F. Boyle.
                                   Eliot L. Engel.