The scars of the leaked transcript of President Trump’s conversation with Mexico in 2017 — in which he told the Mexican president he didn’t actually care if Mexico paid for the wall, his signature campaign promise — have lingered far longer than that news story’s shelf life.
While Trump is not particularly private about who gets to listen in on his phone calls with foreign leaders, the White House has grown deeply protective of the transcripts of those calls in the Trump era, according to the New York Times. The paranoia is primarily linked to the embarrassing leak of the call with Mexico and another call with the prime minister of Australia in 2017. Those leaks gave fodder to Trump’s belief in a “deep state” embedded within his own intelligence community, meant to undermine his every move.
At the beginning of the Trump administration, transcripts were widely distributed among various administration channels. But now, “eyes only” transcripts of calls are shared with the secretary of state and the defense secretary, according to the Times. Both Cabinet officials are not even allowed to make copies of the documents or share them with other officials. No recordings are ever made of the calls, according to the Times.
The Times report on the nature of Trump’s call transcripts comes amid the release of the notes of Trump’s call with Ukraine, which is now at the center of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Even that document was not a verbatim full transcript of the call with President Volodymir Zelensky. The document released from the White House even notes that the text of the document is based on the notes and recollections of those intelligence officials “assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form.”