Trump says he might keep staff from lis­ten­ing in on calls

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Thurs­day that he might end the long-run­ning prac­tice of let­ting ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials lis­ten in on pres­i­den­tial calls with for­eign lead­ers. That’s af­ter Trump’s im­peach­ment was trig­gered by his July phone call with the pres­i­dent of Ukraine.

“I may end the prac­tice en­tirely,” Trump told Ger­aldo Rivera in a ra­dio in­ter­view that aired Thurs­day. Records ex­perts said that was a bad idea, for mul­ti­ple rea­sons.

As is stan­dard prac­tice in any ad­min­is­tra­tion, staffers work­ing in the se­cure, sound­proof Sit­u­a­tion Room chron­i­cle the con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the pres­i­dent and other lead­ers. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Council per­son­nel then pre­pare a mem­o­ran­dum about the call, which serves as an of­fi­cial record.

Larry Pfeif­fer, a 30-year U.S. in­tel­li­gence vet­eran who man­aged the Sit­u­a­tion Room dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, said, “The long-stand­ing prac­tice is some­thing meant to help and pro­tect the pres­i­dent. It al­lows the pres­i­dent and the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to track any agree­ments made on the call and to re­fute quickly and ac­cu­rately any in­cor­rect claims about the call made by the for­eign side,” Pfeif­fer said, adding that it al­lows White House staff mem­bers to follow up and im­ple­ment the pres­i­dent’s policy.

Pfeif­fer said the memos of the calls also ful­fill important his­tor­i­cal record­keep­ing re­quire­ments.

“By stop­ping the prac­tice, the pres­i­dent only shoots him­self in the foot,” he said. “And one can only sur­mise that the pres­i­dent there­fore has some­thing to hide from his own staff and bu­reau­cracy.”

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