Did White House Staff Disable Recording of a Call Between Presidents Trump and Putin?

The source for claims that the White House disabled recording of a phone call between Presidents Trump and Putin said he wasn't sure the call was unrecorded.

  • Published 3 February 2017

Claim

White House staff disabled routine recording of a January 2017 phone call between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

Rating

Origin

On 2 February 2017, various news outlets reported that a (presumably) routine recording of a January 2017 phone call between U.S. president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin was not made because the White House had shut off the recording equipment during that call:

Ilan Berman, vice president of the conservative American Foreign Policy Council think tank, reported that the White House turned off its recording equipment during President Donald Trump’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Following the call with Putin, the Kremlin published a readout of the hour-long conversation that suggested the Russian president was pleased with Trump’s tone.

“During the conversation, both sides expressed their readiness to make active joint efforts to stabilise and develop Russia-US cooperation on a constructive, equitable and mutually beneficial basis,” the Kremlin statement said.

But while the Kremlin produced a detailed 10-paragraph readout of the call, the White House released only a vague one-paragraph statement saying that Trump received a “congratulatory call from Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

During a forum on Russian-Turkish relations at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Berman suggested that the White House could not provide additional details about the call because staff had disabled recording equipment, according to Turkish journalist Ilhan Tanir.

Ilan Berman asserted there was “no readout of the Trump-Putin call” because the White House “turned off recording” in a 1 February 2017 tweet:

When asked whether the recording of such phone calls was required under record retention laws, Berman responded that he did not believe so:

However, Berman also added that he “didn’t know for a fact” that the call hadn’t been recorded on the U.S. side, only that a recording “didn’t seem to exist:

A request for comment from the White House had not been responded to by publication time.

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