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White House will stop transcribing conversations between Trump and foreign leaders

Another blow to transparency in the White House.

The White House will no longer publish summaries of Trump's calls with foreign leaders, two sources familiar with the decision told CNN this week. (Photo credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The White House will no longer publish summaries of Trump's calls with foreign leaders, two sources familiar with the decision told CNN this week. (Photo credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The White House will no longer publish summaries from President Trump’s calls with world leaders, CNN reported Wednesday, citing two sources familiar with the decision.

The outlet said it was “unclear” whether this latest blow to executive transparency was a temporary or permanent change.

As CNN notes, “readouts” of the phone conversations rarely contain news, but are the only proof or record of such a call taking place. They are distributed internally and often contain descriptions of what was discussed, although over the past few months, Trump’s summaries have been lackluster. The last readout published on the White House website was from June 16 and contained a vague three-sentence summary of Trump’s call with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

In the past two weeks alone, Trump has spoken with both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though the White House did not disclose that information until the details had already been reported by foreign media. They did not elaborate on what was said or publish any call summaries.

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In addition providing transparency, call readouts also hold the president accountable. Following an April 2017 call between Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for instance, the two governments produced vastly different accounts of what was discussed.

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

Canada’s call summary, however, offered more details.

“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.”

Abandoning readouts is the latest in a line of unnecessary steps the White House has taken to reduce transparency since Trump was elected.

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President Donald Trump has reportedly taken multiple personal calls with world leaders that even his closest staffers didn’t know about.

The White House has also advocated to keep its visitor logs private, ending a longstanding tradition among past administrations. Last year, the White House was forced to release some of those logs, revealing who had access to the president. The logs included visits from lobbyists and members of the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Council on Environmental Quality.

Additionally, Trump has not held a solo press conference in over 18 months and is the first U.S. president in decades to not release his tax returns, which would provide insight into how he is profiting off the presidency.