The White House concealed some reconstructed transcripts of delicate calls between President Trump and foreign officials, including President Vladimir V. Putin and the Saudi royal family, in a highly classified computer system after embarrassing leaks of his conversations, according to current and former officials.
The handling of Mr. Trump’s calls with world leaders has come under scrutiny after questions over whether a transcript of a July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was improperly placed into this computer system.
The latest revelations show the focus that White House officials put on safeguarding not only classified information but also delicate calls with Mr. Trump, the details of which the administration did not want leaked.
A whistle-blower complaint accuses officials of trying to “lock down” access to information about the conversation with Mr. Zelensky by improperly storing the reconstructed transcript of the July 25 call in the highly classified system after the call took place.
Some are treating this as a staggering scandal:
Just to clarify what is going on here, the White House appears to be engaged in massive, systemic abuse of the classification system and underlying presidential authorities in order to cover up egregious wrongdoing including impeachable conduct.
This is a historic scandal.
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) September 28, 2019
Meh. I’m not so sure.
You know me to be as Trump skeptical as they come. And probably no President’s calls have deserved sunlight as much as this one, due to his flagrant and shameless contempt for the rule of law, and his conflation of the interests of this country with his own personal interests.
That said, generally a President’s conversations with foreign leaders have historically been considered confidential. And while I have no problem with this particular President’s calls being revealed, the historically confidential nature of the calls is relevant here — because it suggests an innocent motive on the part of those who ordered this lockdown. (I continue to believe that the lockdown was not Trump’s idea, since he seems to think he did nothing wrong — and if he ordered it, it was probably at the behest of a more cautious subordinate. It’s also notable that although the treatment of the Ukraine transcript was initially suggested to be different from that of similar transcripts, its lockdown is part of a pattern that started after the leaks started.) The fact that Trump’s calls have been leaked in the past provides a totally legitimate reason to lock the calls down.
And guess what? Obama did this on occasion as well:
.@AmbassadorRice: “Normally there is a full, verbatim transcript” of calls like Trump’s w/ the Ukraine president.
Says he tried to “bury” it on a more secure server, but acknowledges the Obama Admin. sometimes did the same. pic.twitter.com/B6zZNbZsTG
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) September 27, 2019
Susan “Liar” Rice complains about the treatment of the transcripts and says Trump was trying to “bury” the transcripts, but note that she admits Obama placed such transcripts on a similar lockdown at times. She claims it was done only when the discussion itself was classified. Well, maybe the discussions with Putin and MBS did involve classified information. (Of course, the discussions with Putin involving classified information may have been in the nature of “Hey, Vladimir, let me share some classified information with you” — you know, like Trump did with the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office. Which, again, is why I would personally like to see these transcripts leaked or disclosed — because although it sets a bad precedent, this guy is dangerous and we need to have maximum information about the damage he is causing every day.)
This is a distraction from the main event: Trump treating his interactions with a foreign leader as a chance to advance his own personal interests. That is in keeping with everything he does (and, by the way, yapping about “hearsay” and the allegedly changing rules regarding its use to initiate an investigation are wholly irrelevant since we have independent evidence here), and it is an impeachable offense.
Don’t count on Dems to keep their eye on the ball. Instead, they will yammer on (as Warren has) about how Kavanaugh should have been impeached also; or claim (as Paul Krugman has) that journalists are going to end up in camps.
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]