- President Donald Trump is weighing on preventing all officials from eavesdropping on his phone calls with foreign leaders.
- "I can finish the training completely," Trump told Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera in a radio interview that aired on Thursday.
- There is a serious risk of preventing officials from listening to conversations with foreign leaders.
- Trump in particular is known for being ruthless in dealing with secret matters. He once shared top secret information from an American ally with Russian officials and tweeted a photo of a secret briefing.
- "Right now, President Trump is a nightmare for any intelligence and [national security] officer, and that's all he has done with his knowledge," a former senior National Security Agency official told Insider. "Allowing him to make these calls privately would be disastrous for us."
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President Donald Trump said he could prevent all officials from eavesdropping on his phone calls to foreign leaders.
"I can finish the training completely," Trump told Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera in a radio interview that aired on Thursday.
It has been a long-standing practice for select White House employees, national security officials, and cabinet members to listen to the U.S. President's phone calls with foreign leaders, primarily to take notes and use the conversation to shape foreign policy.
National security veterans say there are serious risks in preventing officials from eavesdropping on conversations with foreign leaders.
"Practice is essential for the coordination and implementation of sound foreign and national security practices," Edward Price, who served as senior director of the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, told Insider. "No president – but above all not this one – can or should rely on informing senior advisors about details that can often be extremely nuanced."
Trump's comments show that he is "ready to forego the potential benefits of these discussions to ensure that he can meet his agenda, not national interests, without listening to potential witnesses," Price added.
In particular, the national security risks associated with Trump are also significantly increased.
The President has repeatedly ruthlessly dealt with secret matters. In May 2017, during an Oval Office meeting, he revealed two top secret information the U.S. had received from Israel, a close ally, of Israel.
Last year, he tweeted a photo of a secret briefing that intelligence experts said could be a gold mine for foreign spy services.
"Right now, President Trump is a nightmare for any intelligence and [national security] officer, and that's all he has done with his knowledge," a former senior National Security Agency official told Insider. "Allowing him to make these calls privately would be disastrous for us."
This is not the first time that the President has tried to keep his talks with foreign heads of state secret.
The Washington Post, quoting US officials, reported last year that "even in secret files, there have been no detailed records of Trump's personal interactions with the Russian leader at five locations in the past two years."
The report states that after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017, Trump told his interpreter not to tell other U.S. officials what was said and then confiscated the interpreter's notes.
At the G20 summit in 2018, Trump again met privately with Putin without a U.S. official attending the meeting and taking notes.
Trump's considerations of making his calls to foreign leaders in secret came after an anonymous U.S. intelligence agent blew his whistle on his phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July.
During the conversation, Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump's rivals in 2020, and the Democratic Party as a whole.
Several people listened to the call, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, members of the National Security Council who worked on Ukraine's policies, and senior White House officials.
The whistleblower said several people had informed them of the content of the call and raised concerns that Trump had violated campaign finance laws by asking for foreign interference in the upcoming elections. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, former NSC top expert in Ukraine, listened directly to the call and immediately reported it to John Eisenberg, the NSC's chief lawyer.
Eisenberg told Vindman not to tell anyone what he heard, Vindman said in the impeachment investigation against Trump. Eisenberg then moved the full transcript of the call to a top secret codeword NSC server, which typically stores confidential information related to national security.
This call was the focus of the impeachment investigation, which culminated in the House of Representatives, where Trump was charged with abuse of power and Congress disability. Both allegations were related to his efforts to get Ukraine to vote, while withholding important $ 400 million military assistance and a White House meeting that Zelensky desperately and always wants has not yet received.
Throughout the investigation period, statements from Vindman and others showed that the call was only a data point in a month-long campaign by Trump and his allies to harass Ukraine to give in to his personal demands while using US policies and taxpayers' money to force Zelensky's hand.
Last week, the Republican-controlled Senate voted to clear Trump from both charges after refusing to hear new testimony or subpoenas. Only a Republican senator, Mitt Romney from Utah, was on the Democrats' side to convict Trump for abuse of power.