White House limit access to Trump calls with Putin, Saudi Arabia: report

The White House sought to limit access to conversations President Trump had with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to CNN. A person familiar with the matter told the outlet that officials who would have ordinarily been given access to a rough transcript were not provided one and that a transcript was never circulated after the call with Mohammed was complete. The source told CNN the call did not contain sensitive national security interests. Officials also tightly restricted access to a transcript for at least one of Trump’s conversations with Putin. The news came after a declassified whistleblower complaint revealed that the White House sought to bury a transcript of a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pushed Kiev to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s top political rivals.  “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump said on the call, according to a memorandum. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.” The complaint also said that a future phone call or meeting between the two presidents “would depend on whether Zelensky showed willingness to ‘play ball,’” and “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge” of the call expressed concern that Trump was using his office for his personal political gain. The whistleblower added that the handling of the Ukraine call was “not the first time” that such steps had been taken “solely for the purpose of protecting political sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.” It is not clear if officials placed the transcripts from the calls with Mohammed and Putin in the same secured electronic system in which they stored the Zelensky transcript.  The White House and National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.  “NSC lawyers directed that the classified document be handled appropriately,” a senior White House official told CNN, adding that the decision was made by National Security Council attorneys. Officials have said the practice of restricting access to some of the transcripts for Trump’s calls started over a year ago after details of some phone calls with world leaders leaked to the media.