Donald Trump said today that he would think about releasing a transcript of the call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a call which has been embroiled in controversy after it was identified as the likely subject of a whistleblower complaint by an unidentified intelligence community official.
Before you get too excited, remember that this is the same man who promised to release his tax returns to the public once the IRS was finished with an audit of his 2015 filings, something that failed to occur either because it has been the slowest, most meticulous audit that the agency ever conducted or was merely an idle excuse that Trump gave to quiet critics at the time, despite having no intention of ever fulfilling his promise.
While in Houston with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the president described his conversation with the Ukranian President as “perfect” as he defended his right to keep his conversations with world leaders confidential.
“The problem is, when you’re speaking to foreign leaders, you don’t want foreign leaders to feel that they shouldn’t be speaking openly,” Trump said. “And the same thing with an American president. You want them to be able to express themselves without knowing that every single word was going to be going out and going out all over the world,” he added.
The president claimed that he would “talk” about releasing some of the details of the conversation, a vow that has as much value as someone talking about winning the lottery one day — until it actually happens, it remains an unlikely dream.
“We’ll make a determination about how to release it, releasing it, saying what we said,” Trump said, adding “but you have to be a little bit shy about doing that.”
Not usually known for his shyness, Trump earlier had admitted that he had discussed the topic of his potential rival in the 202o presidential election, Joe Biden — and Biden’s son’s involvement in Ukranian politics — with President Zelensky on the call. He told reporters that he was aware that “intelligence people” were listening to his calls with his permission.
Trump’s statement demonstrates the mixed messaging emanating from his administration on the topic of the controversial whistleblower complaint and the “urgent” nature of the matter.
Earlier on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told ABC’s This Week that releasing a transcript of the call would be a bad idea and impermissible, labeling the idea as inappropriate.
“Those are private conversations between world leaders, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so except in the most extreme circumstances,” Pompeo said.
Now that Trump has contradicted his own Secretary of State on the appropriateness of the release of the contents of the call, it’s anyone’s guess what might happen next, but if you’re expecting transparency from this administration, be prepared for disappointment.
President Trump is actually scheduled to meet the Ukranian president Zelensky on Wednesday during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Hopefully, it won’t be the type of meeting that Trump has favored in his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin— with no other attendees except a translator whose notes on the talks would be confiscated. Stay tuned to find out how that encounter unfolds.
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Original reporting by Morgan Chalfant at The Hill