Multiple outlets are reporting that the Trump administration has stopped publishing readouts of the president's phone calls with foreign leaders.
Republican and Democratic administrations have released such summaries for years, and they often serve as the only official description of the calls. The last readout, published in mid-June, summarized a conversation between Donald Trump and the prime minister of Hungary. Since then, no readouts have been released, even though Trump has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the last two weeks.
CNN was the first outlet to report on the Trump administration's decision, and the news was confirmed by The Wall Street Journal and CBS News. It's not clear if the change is temporary or permanent. Readouts of calls will still be available to some officials.
Tony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, notes that public readouts are important for two reasons. "One is transparency," Blinken tells CNN. "There is a public interest in knowing who he talked to and what they talked about. Secondly, these readouts help shape the narrative. If we aren't doing a readout, but the other country is, their narrative is going to prevail."
The change has sparked a chorus of disapproval on Twitter:
— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) July 25, 2018
In Trump's defense, he doesn't want everyone knowing about the kleptocracy and the various other nefarious activities he's doing during his "presidency." https://t.co/t2n1vspPqb
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) July 24, 2018
Well, this too is very wrong.
Where are all those Republicans who believe in open, transparent & accountable government? https://t.co/u94CB964M7
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 25, 2018
Democracy dies in darkness. And information is light. Strange times. . .
— John MacKinnon (@rjmackinnon) July 24, 2018
Trump could talk to Putin every night. The White House decided to stop giving readouts of Trump's calls. Deeply troubling https://t.co/mDcWftVt3n
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) July 25, 2018
In the past, the White House's versions of Trump's calls have sometimes differed greatly from what other countries say happened. In early June, the Journal reports, the U.K. government's readout of a conversation between Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested that May had called Trump out over his tariffs on European Union goods. The White House's readout left that out, saying instead that Trump "further underscored the need to rebalance trade with Europe."