Former President Donald Trump went to great lengths to hide his communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Trump appeared at a press conference in Helsinki alongside the Russian president, the one where Trump openly sided with Putin over his own intelligence and national security officials, the meeting held between the two beforehand was so secretive that no notes were allowed and translators were sworn to secrecy. Phone calls between the two, however, are part of the presidential record, and President Joe Biden now has access to them.
NEW: The Trump-Putin call transcripts are the great missing puzzle piece to the last four years of U.S. Russia relations. And now, Biden has access to them
— Sam Stein (@samstein) February 10, 2021
It is highly likely that Biden will want to review those transcripts to determine what national security issues Trump created during his time in office. As Trump watches his second impeachment trial in the Senate move forward, his exposure to other legal issues already creates a tenuous situation for the former president. Biden’s access to his communications could contribute heavily to that.
POLITICO writes that:
‘Few Trump-era mysteries are as intriguing as what the 45th president said to Vladimir Putin in at least a dozen rambling, off-the-cuff calls and meetings over four years. Understanding what was said between the two could help illuminate whether Trump ever revealed sensitive information or struck any deals with the Kremlin leader that could take the new administration by surprise.’
Trump and Putin talked at least 12 times, but the content of the calls were kept secret.
Now, the Biden's team is piecing together whether there are any problems—and any promises they can't keep.
— POLITICO (@politico) February 10, 2021
Biden’s reviews of those calls are sure to be painted as politically motivated by Republican Trump allies should they turn up more improprieties, but National Security officials say that it’s necessary for Biden to understand the position that Trump has put the country in prior to Biden’s term in office.
One national security official told POLITICO that:
‘It is a national security priority to find out what Trump said to Putin. Some things, like what happened in some face-to-face meetings where no American translator or note-taker was present, may never be fully known. But I would be very surprised if the new national security team were not trying to access [records of the calls].’
All of Trump’s legal protections, which contributed heavily to his remaining president for four long years, are now gone, which he’s learning during the impeachment trial taking place this week. Exposure to other legal issues as a result of any other crimes will not be determined by the Senate, but possibly by National Security officials and the intelligence community.
Executive director of the law firm National Security Counselors Kel McClanahan said that:
‘The only person who can claim executive privilege anywhere is the sitting president. So there is literally no situation, nor could there be, where a former president could keep a sitting president from seeing something.’
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