During his time in office, former President Donald Trump kept details of his phone conversations and meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin under wraps, not even letting top White House aides have access to transcripts of what was said between the two leaders, placing the information in the National Security Council’s ultra top-secret codeword system which is off-limits to staffers and even cabinet officials.
Now, however, with Trump back at Mar-a-Lago and Joe Biden as president, those “call materials” and other data from Trump’s conversations with Putin are the property of the sitting president, and as Politico reports, Biden’s national security officials are certain to examine them in an effort to glean what promises Trump may have made or what secrets he revealed to the Russian leader:
“It is a national security priority to find out what Trump said to Putin” over his four years in office, said one former national security official who is close to the new president. “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” the call records.
Since the calls involve Trump, could he or someone from the Trump administration claim executive privilege? No. Only sitting president’s can do so:
Kel McClanahan, executive director of the law firm National Security Counselors, agreed as a legal matter: “The only person who can claim executive privilege anywhere is the sitting president,” he said. “So there is literally no situation, nor could there be, where a former president could keep a sitting president from seeing something.”
Biden has made it clear that he will not kowtow to Putin the way he believes Trump did, and there are even suggestions that the administration may be prepared to impose crippling economic sanctions on the Kremlin for their crackdown on and harassment of Russian opposition leader Alexi Navalny, who was allegedly poisoned with a nerve agent and immediately arrested as soon as he returned to Russia in January.
For now, however, top Biden staffers will be poring over the call materials and other data Trump left behind so they can better determine how badly the former president may have compromised the U.S.
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