Exclusive: White House stops announcing calls with foreign leaders

The White House has suspended the practice of publishing public summaries of President Donald Trump's phone calls wit...

Posted: Jul 25, 2018 10:20 AM
Updated: Jul 25, 2018 10:20 AM

The White House has suspended the practice of publishing public summaries of President Donald Trump's phone calls with world leaders, two sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN, bringing an end to a common exercise from Republican and Democratic administrations.

It's unclear if the suspension is temporary or permanent. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Official descriptions of the President's calls with foreign leaders -- termed "readouts" in Washington parlance -- offer administrations the chance to characterize in their own terms the diplomacy conducted at the highest levels between countries. While news is rarely contained in the rote, often dry descriptions, they do offer the only official account that a phone call took place. Readouts are still released internally.

Trump has had at least two calls with other leaders in the last two weeks, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The White House confirmed that the calls took place after they were reported by foreign media, but declined to elaborate on what was said.

The White House has not published a readout of a call between Trump and a world leader since mid-June when he called to congratulate the Hungarian prime minister on his re-election victory.

"The two leaders further pledged to keep United States-Hungary relations strong," the readout at the time noted.

Michael Allen, who was a member of the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said that by halting the practice of issuing readouts, the White House loses "the action forcing event of an announced phone call."

"I think they lose the public diplomacy aspect of a presidential phone call," Allen added.

'Highly coordinated events'

Calls with world leaders are highly coordinated events that in the past have required careful planning by the President's national security team. Leaders are typically patched through the Situation Room, and sometimes aides listen in. Once the call is over, both sides typically publish a readout of what was discussed. However, readouts have been known to differ between governments.

After Trump spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in April 2017, the two sides offered vastly different accounts of what was discussed.

"President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke today. The two leaders discussed the dairy trade in Wisconsin, New York State, and various other places. It was a very amicable call," the White House's version read.

Canada's readout was more descriptive.

"The prime minister and the President reaffirmed the importance of the mutually beneficial Canada-US trade relationship," Canada's readout said. "On the issue of softwood lumber, the prime minister refuted the baseless allegations by the US Department of Commerce and the decision to impose unfair duties."

Tony Blinken, who served as the deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration from 2015 to 2017, said there are two main reasons why issuing the readouts are important.

"One is transparency," Blinken told CNN. "There is a public interest in knowing who he talked to and what they talked about. Secondly, these readouts help shape the narrative. If we aren't doing a readout, but the other country is, their narrative is going to prevail. "

Records

Trump has been known to make calls to foreign leaders from the residence of the White House during what has been dubbed by aides as "executive time." Before he was fired this spring, former national security adviser H.R. McMaster often joined Trump in residence for his calls. His successor John Bolton is regularly present during his calls with leaders, a White House official tells CNN.

The decision to halt the readouts come amid questions about what was said during Trump's one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

Trump was incensed last August when The Washington Post published transcripts of his tense phone calls with the leaders of Australia and Mexico. He railed about the leak to aides for weeks, insisting that fewer people be in the room during the calls going forward.

He was similarly infuriated after it quickly leaked this spring that he had been directly instructed by his national security advisers in briefing materials not to congratulate Putin on his recent election victory during their call. As reported by the Post, he did.

The leak reinforced Trump's long-held belief there are individuals inside his administration -- especially in the national security realm -- who are working to undermine him, sources close to the President told CNN at the time.

In May, as French President Emmanuel Macron was trying to convince Trump to remain in the Iran nuclear deal, he and Trump held a phone call. The White House issued a terse, two-sentence readout after the call highlighting Trump and Macron's "shared commitment to peace and stability in the Middle East," while declining to offer any details.

Terre Haute
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 79°
Robinson
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 73°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 75°
Rockville
Mostly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 74°
Casey
Partly Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 76°
Brazil
Mostly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 79°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 79°
Scattered storms, warm evening
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1388634

Reported Deaths: 25566
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55620110461
DuPage923681316
Will769181032
Lake683491014
Kane59419807
Winnebago34106506
Madison30930526
McHenry29182294
St. Clair28316519
Peoria23443342
Champaign21100154
Sangamon19094240
McLean18553187
Tazewell17227305
Rock Island15245329
Kankakee14550217
Kendall1327899
LaSalle12779250
Macon10997211
DeKalb10116121
Vermilion10021142
Adams8677126
Williamson7595134
Whiteside7199174
Boone683677
Ogle620683
Grundy598678
Clinton578991
Coles5770100
Knox5642153
Jackson510065
Henry507870
Livingston489691
Woodford483282
Stephenson481985
Macoupin478288
Effingham476872
Franklin454178
Marion4513117
Jefferson4422122
Monroe438094
Lee419354
Randolph416487
Fulton405159
Logan396964
Morgan393482
Christian383875
Montgomery379474
Bureau378383
Fayette322555
Perry320360
Iroquois313867
McDonough290851
Jersey271652
Douglas260636
Saline260357
Lawrence241127
Shelby232638
Union228141
Crawford214525
Bond208724
Cass203527
Ford188948
Warren184148
Clark183733
Jo Daviess182724
Pike181853
Wayne181053
Hancock180631
Carroll178337
Richland176940
Edgar176740
White170626
Washington164825
Moultrie163128
De Witt157229
Mason154145
Piatt152414
Clay149643
Mercer149334
Johnson147616
Greene145134
Massac135840
Wabash135612
Cumberland130119
Menard125012
Jasper116718
Marshall108119
Hamilton84215
Schuyler7797
Brown7286
Pulaski7007
Stark64824
Edwards57712
Calhoun5302
Henderson52814
Scott4881
Putnam4863
Alexander47411
Gallatin4694
Hardin39112
Pope3284
Out of IL350
Unassigned02433

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 750702

Reported Deaths: 13766
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032371783
Lake556801007
Allen41671691
St. Joseph36983564
Hamilton36570417
Elkhart29394459
Tippecanoe22894225
Vanderburgh22555400
Porter19354325
Johnson18432388
Hendricks17615317
Clark13207193
Madison13141344
Vigo12612253
LaPorte12418221
Monroe12202175
Delaware10955198
Howard10298225
Kosciusko9626120
Hancock8563145
Bartholomew8167157
Warrick7858156
Floyd7785180
Grant7234179
Wayne7161201
Boone6943103
Morgan6747141
Dubois6215118
Marshall6210116
Cass6008109
Dearborn589778
Henry5895109
Noble580987
Jackson508975
Shelby501096
Lawrence4738122
Gibson444793
Clinton441255
Harrison441173
DeKalb439685
Montgomery437590
Whitley406443
Huntington402681
Steuben399859
Miami393169
Jasper387754
Knox375890
Putnam372360
Wabash360683
Ripley347070
Adams345455
Jefferson335885
White331653
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay266548
Washington245434
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220748
Sullivan214443
Owen211658
Fulton202242
Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188155
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166146
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113736
Brown104243
Crawford102416
Benton101514
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8138
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420