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Trump says may end practice of having aides listen in on calls with foreign leaders

President Donald J. Trump addresses his remarks Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is considering ending the long-standing practice of having other government officials listen in on calls with foreign leaders.

“I may end the practice entirely,” Trump said in a radio interview broadcast on February 13.

A July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was at the heart of the House of Representatives’ impeachment case against Trump. Democrats accused Trump of pressuring Kyiv in the call to begin an investigation of a political rival, Democrat Joe Biden — allegations Trump denied.

Presidents generally have staffers, working in the secure, soundproof Situation Room in the West Wing basement, listen in and take notes on conversations with foreign leaders.

National Security Council personnel then use the transcripts or notes to prepare a memorandum about the call, which serves as an official record.

“The long-standing practice is something meant to help and protect the president. It allows the president and the national security adviser to track any agreements made on the call and to refute quickly and accurately any incorrect claims about the call made by the foreign side,” Larry Pfeiffer, a 30-year U.S. intelligence veteran who managed the Situation Room during the administration of Barack Obama, told AP.

Meanwhile, Trump also said the impeachment process made him think about the “dark” days when Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974 over the Watergate scandal before his own likely impeachment.

“Well, it’s a terrible thing and, you know, I think of Nixon more than anybody else and what that dark period was in our country and the whole thing with the [secret White House recordings] and the horror show,” Trump said.

“It was dark and went on for a long time, and I watched it.”