The release of the transcript detailing President Trump’s conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is setting what some say is a “dangerous precedent,” as Democrats are beginning to express the need to review transcripts of other calls between Trump and foreign leaders.
Democrats are beginning to demand the release of conversations between Trump and other foreign leaders as part of the House impeachment inquiry — specifically, conversations with Russian and Saudi Arabian leaders, which were “hidden on the secret national security system,” as Axios reported.
The system was utilized following an array of leaks early on in the administration, with the transcripts of Trump’s conversations with Mexican President Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull going public in 2017.
The national security server “is now central to the impeachment probe,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state to George W. Bush, told Axios that this could hurt Trump’s relationship with other foreign leaders in the long run due to the looming fears that their conversations could be made public and extraordinarily politicized.
“Other world leaders are going to be extremely cautious in their conversations with him,” Burns said, according to Axios. “You’ll never know if you’re going to find those conversations on the front page of the New York Times, or on Axios.”
Russian officials are already perishing the thought of Vladimir Putin’s calls being made public.
Per the Associated Press (AP):
Asked if Moscow is worried that the White House could similarly publish transcripts of Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we would like to hope that it wouldn’t come to that in our relations, which are already troubled by a lot of problems.”
Speaking in a conference call with reporters, he emphasized that the publication of the Trump-Zelenskiy call is an internal U.S. issue, but added that it was “quite unusual” to release a confidential call between leaders.
“The materials related to conversations between heads of states are usually classified according to normal international practice,” he said.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), who dramatized the phone call between Trump and Zelensky during a committee hearing last week, told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that lawmakers want access to Trump’s phone calls with other foreign leaders, including Putin, citing “national security” — one of the Pelosi-approved talking points agreed upon by Democrat leaders who want to ease the worries of potential Democrat voters who are worried about impeachment.
“The paramount need here is to protect the national security of the United States and see whether in the conversations with other world leaders and in particular with Putin that the president was also undermining our security in a way that he thought would personally benefit his campaign,” Schiff said, signaling a resurrection of the Russia probe.
“If those conversations with Putin or with other world leaders are sequestered in that same electronic file that is meant for covert action, not meant for this, if there’s an effort to hide those and cover those up, yes we’re determined to find out,” he added.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) made a similar call on MSNBC’s Weekends, using another one of the Democrat leaders’ agreed-upon words — “betrayal.”
One of the things that really troubled me is that we are not just talking about Ukraine apparently, and the whistle-blower complaint is quite clear that there were other call records and transcripts that were scrub and put in a safe somewhere with other leaders of foreign countries, and so this is why the graveness of the situation has to be emphasized.
It is absolutely a betrayal of our values, and our Constitution and our national security. If this is happening with Ukraine, there are at least 12 calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin that might also be in the safe. And Putin says that he does not want us to have access to, and that says to me that we better get access to those. I would like to ask questions about those.
Even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is calling for access to Trump’s conversations with other foreign leaders:
We have got to get to the bottom of this. The American people have a right to know what deals Trump might be making with the murderous Saudi dictator that he loves so much. https://t.co/UrbPL6FfzD
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 28, 2019
Former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker warned of the “dangerous precedent” that is being set, with Democrats demanding the release of transcripts based on “false accusations.”
“It makes it very difficult for the president of the United States to have a conversation about all the things that he needs to talk about under Article II with other world leaders to run the business of the United States of America,” Whitaker told Fox News’s Sean Hannity last week.
“This president will continue to advance American interests and have those conversations, but it does set a really dangerous precedent that these transcripts are going to have to ultimately be released because of false accusations by political opponents,” he added.