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Trump floats halt to officials listening in on calls with foreign leaders

President Trump said Thursday he may end the practice of having national security and foreign service staff listen in on his calls with foreign leaders after a July call with the president of Ukraine triggered his impeachment in the House.

Trump complained extensively about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry, during a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera, accusing him of being “insubordinate” by raising concerns about the president’s conduct on the July 25 call.

“Why are so many people allowed to listen to your phone calls anyway?” Rivera asked.

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“Well, that’s what they’ve done over the years,” Trump said. “When you call a foreign leader, people listen. I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely.”

Top White House and national security officials typically listen in on presidential phone calls to keep everyone on the same page and create a record of the conversation.

Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky set off the impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower raised concerns that the president was pressuring Zelensky to investigate his political rivals while holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.

The president has repeatedly said he was aware other officials were listening to that conversation, which he has maintained was “perfect,” repeatedly telling people to “read the transcript.”

The House impeached Trump in December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and the Senate acquitted him last week.

Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient detailed to the National Security Council at the time, reported to his superior that he was concerned about the political nature of Trump’s call.

The White House last week forced out Vindman, and he was reassigned within the Pentagon.

“I’m not a fan of Vindman,” Trump said Thursday.

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