One of the key aspects of the impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump is not just that he apparently tried to extort dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but that he hid the details of the call using a secure system designed for classified information — and recent reporting suggests he did the same for calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On Friday's edition of CNN's "OutFront," former George W. Bush White House adviser Michael Green told anchor Erin Burnett that this is essentially unheard of.
"Mike, there are key issues here that we all need to understand," said Burnett. "First of all, as you point out, the highly unprecedented nature of moving a call to the server in the Ukraine call. So it happens, from your experience dealing with this. Sometimes rarely or is it close to unprecedented. Is that a fair word to use?"
"I've never heard of it, and I've asked colleagues who were in the Obama Administration in similar jobs and they've never heard of the memorandum of a telephone conversation being placed in a restricted, highly restricted server or system with the most compartmented and classified information. Very, very unusual," said Green. "Look, I worked for President Bush, and he was calling leaders about Iraq and nuclear weapons, and these were sensitive discussions, and I never saw anything like this in that case."
"Want to ask you about that just specifically, because you did create transcripts like this in your role," said Burnett. "You'd be on the call and you'd create it and check the facts and make sure it's there for the historical record. There are some people out there, Mike, does this stuff just happen normally? They get to know each other at these events and they talk off-the-cuff and do each other favors and this is the nasty, dark side who don't see and that's all this is. Is that possible or are those people just wrong about how these calls happen and how they're handled?"
"What's clearly different this time, and you can see it in the memorandum and the transcript that was released, was the president was asking for a personal favor for information on a political opponent," said Green. "That is unprecedented as far as we know, and furthermore, he was doing it in a way where the intent was to conceal it in the server where it would not be known to the diplomatic service or the intelligence officials who were responsible for policy."
"That is a significant diplomatic event," added Green, "and things flow from that, and the others would take actions, and the intelligence community and maybe the Secretary of Defense need to know the gist of what was discussed, because it will affect their interactions and their deployments of military equipment and their diplomatic interactions. And that's why we've never seen this before, where a transcript was essentially hidden in a highly classified system."