White House efforts to limit access to President Donald Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders extended to phone calls with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the CNN reported Friday, according to people familiar with the matter.
Those calls — both with leaders who maintain controversial relationships with Trump — were among the presidential conversations that aides took remarkable steps to keep from becoming public.
In the case of Trump’s call with the Saudi prince, officials who ordinarily would have been given access to a rough transcript of the conversation never saw one, according to one of the sources. Instead, a transcript was never circulated at all, which the source said was highly unusual, particularly after a high-profile conversation.
The call – which the person said contained no especially sensitive national security secrets — came as the White House was confronting the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence assessments said came at the hand of the Saudi government.
With Putin, access to the transcript of at least one of Trump’s conversations was also tightly restricted, according to a former Trump administration official.
It’s not clear if aides took the additional step of placing the Saudi Arabia and Russia phone calls in the same highly secured electronic system that held a now-infamous phone call with Ukraine’s president and which helped spark a whistleblower complaint made public this week, though officials confirmed calls aside from the Ukraine conversation were placed there.
But the attempts to conceal information about Trump’s discussions with Prince Mohammed (known in Saudi Arabia as MBS) and Putin further illustrate the extraordinary efforts taken by Trump’s aides to strictly limit the number of people with access to his conversations with foreign leaders.
The White House did not comment about the limiting of access to calls with the Russian and Saudi leaders.
Officials said the practice began more than a year ago after embarrassing leaks revealed information about Trump’s phone conversations with the leaders of Australia and Mexico. While it includes the highly secure system for particularly sensitive matters, it has also extended to limiting the number of individuals who are provided a transcript or are able to listen to the call.
Those efforts have come under scrutiny after the intelligence whistleblower alleged that White House officials took unusual steps to conceal Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s new president.