Marina Gross is the interpreter who translated for President Trump during his summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last year. Gross was the only American in the room — besides President Trump — during his meeting with Putin, and many congress members have suggested that she should be ordered to share what she observed during the private meeting.
The Washington Post recently reported that Trump has often ordered his interpreters to destroy their notes, following his meetings with Putin. The Post story sparked renewed interest in some quarters in hearing Marina Gross’s account of the Helsinki summit.
Here’s what you need to know about Marina Gross:
1. She Has Worked as a Translator for the State Department for at Least a Decade
Gross is a career civil servant who works as an interpreter for the US State Department. She is an interpreter and not a translator. Interpreters — like Gross — translate orally, whereas translators translate written documents. Interpreters are known for their tremendous listening skills, as well as their impressive memories.
Gross has worked for the State Department since at least 2008.
2. She Was the Interpreter for Former First Lady Laura Bush at Sochi in 2008
When Laura Bush visited Sochi in 2008, Marina Gross was right by her side. Gross served as the first lady’s official interpreter at Sochi. Year later, in April of 2017, Gross was spotted sitting beside then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he attended meetings in Moscow.
3. Obama’s Ambassador to Russia Called Her ‘Fantastic’
Gross has often served in a position of trust. As far back as 2008, she acted as the interpreter for former First Lady Laura Bush during the Sochi Olympics. Much more recently, of course, Gross was President Trump’s ambassador when he held a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Gross has won praise from many State Department officials over the years for the quality of her work. 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.
John Beyrle, another former US ambassador to Russia, told CNN, “I know the interpreter … she’s a professional.”
4. After Helsinki, Some Democrats in Congress Called for Gross to be Subpoenaed
Back in July 2018, several Democrats in Congress said that Marina Gross should be forced to answer questions about what she saw and heard during the Helsinki summit. Many Democrats were angered by what they saw as the secretive nature of the meeting, and they wanted more information.
Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell of New Jersey wrote a letter to Trey Gowdy andElijah Cummings, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Pascrell’s letter asked the committee to call Gross to a hearing to testify about the Helsinki summit. Also in July, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the committee to compel Gross to testify.
“I believe the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should hold a hearing with the American translator who was present during President Trump and President Putin’s private meeting to determine what was specifically discussed and agreed to on the United States’s behalf,” Shaheen said.
5. State Department Interpreters Go Through a Rigorous Evaluation Process & Must Adhere to a Strict Code of Conduct
The State Department’s Office of Language Services hires interpreters, translators, and liaisons to work throughout the US government. It isn’t an easy position to be hired for. Interpreters are evaluated on their interpreting skills, but they’re also tested on their general knowledge of US history and culture, and on their people skills, since they need to be comfortable working with international visitors in potentially tense situations. Once hired, interpreters are expected to maintain a low profile and staying in the shadows, even during high-profile meetings.