Ilan Berman, vice president of the conservative American Foreign Policy Council think tank, said it was curious that the White House had not provided a readout of President Donald Trump’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Following the call with Putin on Saturday, 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 Wednesday 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.
“You always look for the readout of the phone call, whatever it is,” he said. “Did you guys notice there was no American readout of the phone call? There was none. They turned the tape recorder off. There was a Russian readout of the phone call. If you happen to read Russian and you want to inflict intellectual pain upon yourself you can go on the Kremlin website and read it.”
“If you do — as I have — you’ll find the Russians think that the phone call went really well,” Berman continued. “The Russians think that there was an implicit grant of a recognition of spheres of influence.”
Berman later clarified his comment in a tweet: “I don’t know for a fact that they turned it off. Was merely saying it was curious that a rec. didn’t seem to exist.”
The “comment about ‘turning recorder off’ was an aside, not a revelation,” he added.
(Note: This article has been updated to clarify that Ilan Berman has no evidence that the White House turned off recording equipment.)