US President Joe Biden is now privy to Donald Trump’s secret conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Prior to his second impeachment after the US Capitol riots, Trump’s relationship with Russia often held the eye of scrutiny during his time in power, with questions raised over interference in the 2016 election and whether there was any collusion between the two leaders.
Unlike the more traditional coldness between the two nations, Trump and Putin had a fairly active relationship, having spoken in around a dozen phone calls that were fiercely guarded by the former POTUS. However, Biden now has access to the details of those conversations.
A former Trump White House official told Politico, ‘They don’t need our approval to see those [records]. Biden owns all the call materials. There is only one president at a time.’
Another former national security official, said to be close to Biden, said, ‘It is a national security priority to find out what Trump said to Putin.’
They added, ‘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 records].’
Trump’s secrecy over their conversations – even going as far as to confiscate his interpreter’s notes or scrapping notetakers completely as they chatted – has long invited more curiosity. However, the Mueller report noted it hadn’t managed to establish any criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump influence the election.
However, Mueller earlier said: ‘The finding indicates that the president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed. It is not what the report said.’
However, another former Trump official believes these records should be kept from Biden and any future president, saying: ‘There are certain things a president and his immediate staff should be able to hold privileged to do the work of government, without being subject to constant partisan gamesmanship.’
The memorandums of conversation, known as memcons, were not expunged when Trump’s term came to an end, instead transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration.
Kel McClanahan, executive director of the law firm National Security Counselor, argued: ‘The only person who can claim executive privilege anywhere is the sitting president. So there is literally no situation, nor could there be, where a former president could keep a sitting president from seeing something.’
Following Biden and Putin’s first conversation, the Kremlin wrote: ‘In general, the conversation between the Russian and US leaders was businesslike and sincere. They agreed to maintain contact.’
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