KEY POINTS

  • Trump is considering no longer allowing officials to overhear phone calls
  • Traditionally, policy and security officials would listen in on important calls
  • The suggestion is no doubt a response to the Ukraine scandal

Now that President Donald Trump has impeachment in his rear view mirror, he’s looking ahead to preventing the next political quagmire – and he wants to make sure a repeat of the Ukraine scandal doesn’t happen. In a recent interview, Trump suggested that he may put an end to allowing officials to listen in on his calls with foreign leaders.

This week, Trump was asked by Geraldo Rivera during a radio interview “why are so many people to listen to your phone calls anyway?” Generally, intelligence and policy officials are allowed to overhear phone conversations the president has with high profile individuals.

In response, Trump said that while that has long been the way things have been done in the White House, he “may end the practice entirely.”

Last July, the president had a conversation on the phone with his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky. During that call, Trump allegedly asked Zelensky to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President and Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and his time with the energy company Burisma. In exchange, Trump said he would end a hold on disbursing military aid to Ukraine. This call ultimately kicked off the impeachment process.

An anonymous whistleblower in the intelligence community then went on to accuse the president of attempting to engage in a legally questionable quid pro quo arrangement with Zelensky. Although that individual did not listen in to that particular call, they said they were familiar with someone who had.

During the House of Representative’s impeachment inquiry, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former White House National Security Council aid, testified that he had secondhand knowledge of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president. His account ultimately helped form the basis for the articles of impeachment drafted against Trump.

In the wake of his acquittal by the Senate, Trump has not wasted any time seeking retaliation against those who participated in the impeachment process; most recently, Vindman and others were abruptly dismissed from their White House posts last Friday.

Trump’s also clearly hoping to take other steps – like keeping his phone calls as private as possible and away from potential future whistleblowers – to make sure he isn’t embroiled in another major scandal over his dealings with foreign leaders.

US President Donald Trump sought to snatch the spotlight from Democrats at a rally in Iowa days before the contest that kicks off the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination battle US President Donald Trump sought to snatch the spotlight from Democrats at a rally in Iowa days before the contest that kicks off the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination battle Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB