The Trump White House has never been big on transparency and after a week of getting hammered (again) for his handling of interactions with foreign leaders across multiple media, particularly in Helsinki, CNN reports the Trump administration has halted the longstanding White House practice of providing a summary, referred to as a readout, of the president’s calls with world leaders. It’s not altogether clear what problem the White House is trying to solve by not providing a readout of Trump’s calls, especially since what goes in the brief, usually dry summaries is at the discretion of the White House and there’s nothing keeping whoever was on the other end of the line from providing details of the call to local media. That means the White House is basically ceding control of the shaping the narrative around any one call, for no apparent reason.
Per CNN’s reporting, it’s not clear how long the White House plans to suspend the practice, nor is it totally certain when the internal policy shift took place. The network notes Trump made at least two calls over the past two weeks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but we only know those took place because they were reported by foreign media. The White House confirmed the calls took place, but did not provide any information other than confirming they took place.
It’s strange timing for the Trump White House to double down on sketchy, opaque dealings with foreign leaders following immense criticism for just that during Trump’s secretive meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit earlier this month. You would think in a normal, non-crazypants universe, the White House would counter by upping the transparency quotient, even if just for optics’ sake, but that has obviously not been the case. The readouts will still be distributed internally at the White House, making this appear even more like a needless swipe at the (American) press corps.
Not to mention, the fact that Trump appears to have the brain of a retired middle linebacker makes having a written record of the call all the more important.