Ex-Official: Trump’s Past Phone-Call Memos Also Concealed

President Donald Trump speaks at the Hispanic Heritage Month Reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House severely restricted distribution of memos detailing President Donald Trump’s calls with foreign leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, after embarrassing leaks of his conversations early in his tenure, a former White House official said.

The White House’s handling of Trump’s calls with foreign leaders is at the heart of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. A whistleblower alleges the White House tried to “lock down” Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s new president because officials were worried about Trump’s request for help investigating Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden. The anonymous whistleblower alleges the White House also tried to cover up the content of other calls by moving memos onto a highly classified computer system.

The former White House official acknowledged that other calls were concealed, while casting the decision as part of an effort to minimize leaks, not an attempt to hide improper discussions. The former official was not authorized to discuss the classification system publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House was beset by leaks of highly sensitive information in the early days of Trump’s presidency. Trump was particularly enraged by leaks that disclosed tough conversations with the leader of Mexico on paying for a border wall and with Australia on abiding by an Obama administration deal on asylum-seekers.

After those disclosures, a White House adviser raised the possibility of lie detector tests for the small number of people in the West Wing and elsewhere with access to transcripts of Trump’s phone calls.

In previous administrations, rough transcripts of presidential phone calls were kept private, but not housed on the highly classified computer system unless sensitive national security information was discussed. Summaries of the calls were distributed to relevant officials in the White House, the State Department and other agencies.

The Trump administration’s process curtailed the number of people who had access. The question is now why.

The whistleblower’s complaint paints a picture of a White House scrambling to conceal damaging information about the president, including the July call in which he pressed Ukraine’s leader for help investigating Biden.

The White House released a rough transcript of the call this past week in which Trump repeatedly says Attorney General William Barr and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani could help with that effort. The call came days after Trump ordered a freeze to some military assistance for Ukraine.

The contents of the restricted calls with Putin and bin Salman are unknown. But Trump’s relationship with both leaders has been controversial, given Russia’s attack on the 2016 U.S. election on Trump’s behalf and Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations, including the murder of a Washington Post journalist.

The former official noted that even some of Trump’s calls with U.S. allies were restricted due to the classified matters that arise during the discussions.

CNN first reported on the White House effort to conceal those calls.

Trump has repeatedly sought to discredit the whistleblower in recent days, accusing the anonymous CIA officer of having a political motivation. His advisers, however, have confirmed some details of the whistleblower’s complaint, but offered different explanations for the White House’s actions.

On Friday, the White House acknowledged that the Ukraine call was moved to a highly classified system at the direction of Trump’s National Security Council lawyers.

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Yaakov Doe
Yaakov Doe
4 years ago

If Trump meanders all over and makes bizarre statements to the press and at his rallies one must wonder what he says to foreign leaders. It’s not just his illegal actions that concern me but the impression that these leaders must have of our deranged President.
Will the House Intelligence Committee request and review records of the calls?

Democrats are sore losers trying to stage a coup
Democrats are sore losers trying to stage a coup
4 years ago

It’s the dems and their supporters who are deranged who can’t get over the fact that the machashefa lost and have been trying to stage a coup since his election.
The dems with their obsession with getting rid of President Trump outside of the ballot box since day one אי”ה will be beaten in a landslide with the Republicans getting back the house and 60 seats in the Senate.

Educated Archy
Educated Archy
4 years ago

Trump has a right to keep his calls secret. We are in extrdinary times where they don’t let the man live. So yes he will have to conceal them

4 years ago

He cannot conceal them in the long run. In a month, in a year, in ten or thirty years, they will come to light. Thousands of scholars will read, parse, and study them. Libraries will be written. History will judge.