Are There other Problematic Phone Calls?

A note in the whistleblower's complaint suggests other transcripts, like the Zelensky call, that have been buried.

“President Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office” by The White House

The whistleblower’s complaint noted that the transcripts of the Trump-Zelensky call were originally stored in an unusual fashion:

In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced—as is customary—by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.

White House officials told me that they were “directed” by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.

Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.

So, someone thought that the call was damning enough that it ought to be buried, and buried in a very deep hole.

Trump may think that the transcripts are a “beautiful” and “perfect” call that totally exonerates him, but clearly some of the folks who work for him didn’t see it that way.

A note at the end of the report also states the following:

According to multiple White House officials I spoke with, the transcript of the President’s call with President Zelenskyy was placed into a computer system managed directly by the National Security Council (NSC) Directorate for Intelligence Programs. This is a standalone computer system reserved for codeword-level intelligence information, such as covert action. According to information I received from White House officials, some officials voiced concerns internally that this would be an abuse of the system and was not consistent with the responsibilities of the Directorate for Intelligence Programs. According to White House officials I spoke with, this was “not the first time” under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive—rather than national security sensitive—information.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the question becomes: is this true? Have other conversations of this nature also been buried?

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    BINGO.

    Its worth noting that this note, like the Mueller report, was written to lay out a line of inquiry. It’s just this is a far easier investigation because there have been so few moving parts.

    14
  2. mattbernius says:

    To be clear, I think this is what have rattled the Republicans who have expressed concern (like Sasse and Hurd) — they don’t know how deep this goes. Once was bad but could be explained away, but if there are a lot of these calls, then there are real problems.

    5
  3. Kathy says:

    Have there been other problematic conversations?

    I don’t know. Has trump spoken on the phone with other world leaders?

    26
  4. @Kathy: And there you go.

    8
  5. Teve says:

    As Vox notes, Zelenski made a point to tell Trump that he’d paid him some money, in the form of staying at Trump’s hotel. And that was the minorly corrupt part of the phone call.

    6
  6. Joe says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Kathy is so much more clever than I. I was just going to answer your question with “yes.”

    4
  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Of course there are other sketchy calls…Trump has never done anything without cheating. He cheats on his wives. He cheats at golf. He cheats on his taxes. This administration is a bottomless pit of corruption.

    6
  8. Scott says:

    I’m going to say no. Because this Administration would have no problem in illegally deleting them.

    3
  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Are There other Problematic Phone Calls?

    Does a bear shit in the woods?
    Is the Pope Catholic?
    Is water wet?
    Are caves dark?
    Is the sun hot?
    Does Santa still live at the North Pole?

    We probably have to check on that last one.

    3
  10. Bill says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    He cheats at golf. He cheats on his taxes.

    There was a old joke about George Washington having never lied- He never played golf or paid income taxes.

    2
  11. PJ says:

    BUT WHAT ABOUT THE EMAILS PHONE CALLS?

    2
  12. JKB says:

    Several transcripts of calls with foreign leaders, e.g., Mexico and Australia, have been leaked by corrupt career employees of and/or people detailed to the White House. The inability to keep Presidential diplomatic discussions from being leaked to reporters is a clear and present danger to national security given such leaking will inhibit foreign leaders from freely discussing diplomatic, defense and security matters with the President. So, the transcripts were moved to a more secure server where access is more limited to deter leakers and make identifying them easier.

    Or you can yell that it was just political hiding, but only one is based on fact.

  13. Pylon says:

    Yes.

  14. Hal_10000 says:

    When you ask of a Trump scandal if there’s more to it, the answer is always yes. He is a deeply intellectually lazy man who can’t be bothered to learn the protocols of how govt works.

    10
  15. Gustopher says:

    @JKB:

    but only one is based on fact.

    But not the one you think.

    8
  16. Jen says:

    Narrator’s voice: There were other problematic calls.

    @JKB: In part, I agree with you. It’s a terrible precedent to set to release calls, because foreign leaders won’t feel as comfortable to speak freely, and this is a big concern.

    Now to where I diverge on this point: The only reason this has become a problem is that Trump *thinks he can get away with anything* and so he says stupid stuff that breaks the law.

    HE is the problem here. And the people around him who actually know what they are doing (the people he CLEARLY does NOT listen to) realize what a mess he’s dragging them and the entire country into, so they leak.

    Unlike the whistleblower who pursued the correct internal channels, only to have the DOJ try to pull a fast one.

    20
  17. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Funny how leaking wasn’t a problem in the Obama White House. I wonder why?

    Endless musical chair firings and resignations, people in prison, unprecedented numbers of jobs not filled, prestige jobs turned down. . . Gee, it’s almost like Don doesn’t know WTF he’s doing.

    13
  18. Jen says:

    Deadspin nails it.

    Trump cannot ever keep his story straight because he never fully knew what it was in the first place. He knows it is about him, and the things that keep happening to him, but beyond that he never knows, and will never know; he is conspiring and scheming constantly, but so ineffectually and in such a state of flummoxed confusion and utterly abject ignorance that the endgame is never anything but unclear.

    The whole piece is on point.

    7
  19. @JKB:

    Several transcripts of calls with foreign leaders, e.g., Mexico and Australia, have been leaked by corrupt career employees of and/or people detailed to the White House. The inability to keep Presidential diplomatic discussions from being leaked to reporters is a clear and present danger to national security given such leaking will inhibit foreign leaders from freely discussing diplomatic, defense and security matters with the President. So, the transcripts were moved to a more secure server where access is more limited to deter leakers and make identifying them easier.

    Tell you what, if it turns out that they have been putting every. single. transcript. on this server, the one reserved for covert ops and controlled by the NSC, then this argument may end up holding water.

    Let’s just say I doubt that that is what is going on.

    Right try, though.

    14
  20. Gustopher says:

    @Jen: I don’t think that we should be sharing all transcripts with the public, but at this point I think it’s clear that they need to be reviewed by a non-Trumpie, with security clearance.

    The House and Senate intelligence committees is probably too many people for the first pass. I’d be happy with one or two from each reading, and marking off the uncontroversial ones, with the remainder going for a fuller review.

    1
  21. gVOR08 says:

    @JKB: Thank you. I was sitting here paying bills and listening to the news on TV feeling somewhat glum. And you brought a little chuckle to my day. You get a downvote anyway.

    5
  22. JohnSF says:

    There could be another possible consequence of storing the messages on a system designed to hold top secret files.
    If (and this is very much what if on my part) that system is set up to only hold files flagged in a certain way, with those flags tracked on a secured database, requiring specific authorisations to create and access, and copy-controlled, sticking an incorrectly flagged or authorised file on there could show up plainly on the transaction records.

    So, if anyone has tried to hide other information this way, it might leave a very obvious trail; unless they were very smart about data security issues.

    3
  23. grumpy realist says:

    Have to quote from a commentator over a DeadSpin:

    Oh and for anyone who wishes to know how Crowdstrike and Ukraine became linked in the soggy wastes that make up his [Trump’s] brain, I think I figured it out:

    The website Zero Hedge (a former stock market blog turned complete loony bin where all authors use the pseudonym Tyler Durden) ran a post in 2017 detailing how the CTO of Crowdstrike (a Russian-American man working for an American company) sits on the board of an “anti-Russia” think tank with a Ukrainian billionaire who donated to Clinton (among other allegations).

    I think that’s the source of this mess. Somehow a completely logical and non-conspiratorial, yet tangential connection between Crowdstrike and the Ukraine became “Crowdstrike is owned by a Ukranian billionaire who supports Hillary”.

    8
  24. Mr. Prosser says:

    Charlie Peirce has a good post up regarding any conversations with Putin. The Russian response sounds like a preemptive transcript release from them in case any conversations may be on the server. Asked if the Kremlin would be ready to agree to release the contents of a phone call with Mr. Trump, Mr. Peskov said that such situations should be treated on a case-by-case basis. “No one has turned to us with such requests,” he said. https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a29268263/vladimir-putin-donald-trump-communications-secret-server-ukraine/

    1
  25. Tyrell says:

    @Scott: Maybe so. I would say they probably get a lot of calls. And I am talking about sales called. I get them, you get them. Sometimes it is the result of internet searches such as for new cars or refinancing. It may be from some past application.
    They have some method by which they get these local area codes. Used to be they always used 800 numbers and you could block them by putting their number on a no call list.
    But now they seem to be able to change numbers continuously. How in the world do they do that?

  26. CSK says:

    I always laugh when I see this photo of Trump, or a similar one. There he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office, trying his damnedest to look stern and commanding, like a true CEO. And all I see is a fat buffoon hopelessly out of his depth.

    5
  27. Jax says:

    @JKB: Most of those transcripts were leaked because Trump openly and blatantly lied about what was said on the phone calls, if I remember correctly. All your boy’s gotta do is stop lying every time he opens his damn mouth or hops on Twitter, and he wouldn’t be in this mess.

    6
  28. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist: Zerohedge is a Russian propaganda outlet, which explains why it was the source of this particular conspiracy theory.

    4
  29. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    Several transcripts of calls with foreign leaders, e.g., Mexico and Australia, have been leaked by corrupt career employees of and/or people detailed to the White House.

    So let me get this straight: when stuff comes out about the Trump White House, it’s because of moles/spies/”corrupt career employees” in the Deep State, but when stuff comes out about the Obama White House, it’s all on Obama’s hand-selected staff, if not The Brown Man himself.

    Did I get that right? Just trying to follow the argument here…

    6
  30. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    I always laugh when I see this photo of Trump, or a similar one.

    I think of it as Trump doing his Alec Baldwin impression.

    4
  31. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Ah, that steely visage! That noble brow! That piercing look! That air of command! That bag of lard under the chin!

    1
  32. Teve says:

    Judd Legum
    @JuddLegum

    Trump met with Wayne LaPierre and asked if the NRA would finance his impeachment defense. LaPierre said he would if Trump promised not to pursue any gun legislation.

    5:36 PM · Sep 27, 2019·Twitter for iPhone
    6.4K

    Moar Crimes!

    4
  33. michael reynolds says:

    In answer to the question posed in the headline, the answer is: yes.

    3
  34. michael reynolds says:

    I just gotta say: Ah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah. Oh, my goodness. Ah hah hah hah hah hah hah! I mean, wow! Wow!

    I’m flying to London on Monday and my big fear is missing out on the fun. This haunts me because I was on the subway in Madrid when SCOTUS gave up Nixon’s tapes. I don’t want to miss another death scene.

    6
  35. Jax says:

    @michael reynolds: THIS is the “Celebrity Apprentice: The White House, Season 3” we’ve been waiting for! 😉

    2
  36. Jen says:

    Well, as @michael reynolds: has noted, the answer is indeed yes.

    CNN is reporting that the White House similarly restricted access to call notes with…

    Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    I’m sure these were “perfect” phone calls that were “totally innocent” too.

    10
  37. @michael reynolds:

    In answer to the question posed in the headline, the answer is: yes.

    The only surprise is the rapidness with which these new pieces of information are emerging.

    3
  38. An Interested Party says:

    THIS is the “Celebrity Apprentice: The White House, Season 3” we’ve been waiting for!

    Perfect…at the end of the season, Elizabeth Warren can tell him that he’s fired…

    6
  39. Teve says:

    Yashar Ali
    @yashar

    NEW: POTUS told Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting [in 2017] that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the election because the US did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed officials to limit access to the remarks.

    4
  40. Teve says:

    Preet Bharara
    @PreetBharara
    ·
    1h
    Watch for lots of people people in Trump’s orbit now try to transition from cowardly to courageous. It’s CYA time.

    3 years from now the Trumper Trolls here will all have new pseudonyms and be attacking Trump for being a Democrat Hillary-supporter. 🙂

    6
  41. Teve says:

    Kevin M. Kruse
    @KevinMKruse
    ·
    27m
    As bad as the revelations about Ukraine and Russia have been, it feels like the Saudi Arabia stuff is somehow going to be *so* much worse.

    5
  42. Jax says:

    @An Interested Party: I’ve got a meme I’ve been saving since he was elected. It’s a computer window that says “Now uninstalling Donald Trump. Please do not turn off your computer until the process is complete.” I’m super excited to make it my cover photo on Facebook and other social media.

    6
  43. dmichael says:

    @michael reynolds: And I vividly remember as I was walking into an Atlanta restaurant and seeing the headline from the Atlanta Constitution: “Nixon Resigns.” That bastard scampered before I could watch him get impeached in color on my new Sony Trinitron portable tv (my first color tv, sigh).

    6
  44. michael reynolds says:

    @dmichael:
    I lived in DC all through Watergate. WaPo at the door every morning, feeling very clued-in as everyone in Washington does. I go on vacation and miss the denouement. I used my minimal Spanish skills to read a newspaper over a guy’s shoulder and I knew then it was over.

    1
  45. Matt says:

    @Tyrell:

    But now they seem to be able to change numbers continuously. How in the world do they do that?

    It’s called spoofing if you want to look it up. They can pretend to be calling from any number they want.

  46. de stijl says:

    @dmichael: ,

    @michael reynolds:

    I was at the summer camp for kids from poor families. North near Alexandria. Something-something lake. Big (something) Lake. It was a big-ass lake.

    They hauled a TV into the mess hall.

    We knew it was a big deal when they made us congregate.

    My first real kiss that week.

    The kids from the Christian camp thought we were criminals, so we had cred.

    One boy from the Christian camp drowned the week I was there, and we were supposed to be sad, but I was fascinated by the search process.