The Washington Post and The Hill cited the American Translators Association in articles concerning possible ethical issues if Congress subpoenas the U.S. interpreter who accompanied President Trump during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last July.
An earlier report by The Post stated that Trump tried to conceal conversations he had with Putin on multiple occasions, at one point confiscating notes from his interpreter. This report has reignited questions about Trump’s alleged ties with the Kremlin.
In the days following the meeting, when Trump sat down with Putin and only their interpreters, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee filed a motion to subpoena the U.S. interpreter, Marina Gross, but it was quickly rejected by Republicans. Now, U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff states that he is considering renewing his demand to subpoena the U.S. interpreter.
Legal experts have said that forcing an interpreter to publicly disclose the details of a confidential conversation between world leaders would be unprecedented. Doing so could also prove to be problematic for future administrations by making it more difficult to conduct face-to-face diplomacy. There’s also a legal argument that the president’s executive privilege extends to the interpreter.
Subpoenaing an interpreter would also be a sharp departure from typical diplomatic conduct. For example, the code of ethics published by the American Translators Association says interpreters must “hold in confidence” any privileged information entrusted to them in the course of their work.
“Confidentiality is a cornerstone of all interpreter code of ethics, regardless of the setting,” says Judy Jenner, a spokesperson for the American Translators Association. “The parties we interpret for must be certain that we will not divulge what is being discussed and if they doubt this, they are not able to speak freely.” Moreover, Jenner says that an interpreter’s notes are not intended to serve as a transcript or minutes, but rather as guides for the interpreter. As such, these documents might not be a full accounting of an exchange.
For both articles, ATA’s Public Relations Committee responded to the requests for information quickly, provided the information the reporters were looking for, and offered additional support in the future. Working with The Washington Post and The Hill shows that ATA is a respected resource for major news outlets.
Founded in 1959, the American Translators Association is the nation’s largest professional organization for translators and interpreters. Its primary goals include fostering and supporting the professional development of translators and interpreters and promoting the translation and interpreting professions. ATA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, has nearly 10,000 members in over 100 countries. For more information on ATA, please visit www.atanet.org.
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