Mnuchin: Disclosing Presidential Conversations with World Leaders Would Be a Terrible Precedent

By Melanie Arter | September 23, 2019 | 10:54am EDT
(Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images)

( - Disclosing President Donald Trump’s conversations with world leaders to Congress would be “a terrible precedent,” and if they’re disclosed to Congress and then leaked to the media, “why would world leaders want to have conversations together?” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union with Jake Tapper.”

When asked why the White House shouldn’t just let Congress look at the whistleblower complaint that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, Mnuchin said, “I think that would be a terrible precedent.”


“Conversations between world leaders are meant to be confidential, and if every time someone, for political reasons, raised a question, and all of a sudden those conversations were disclosed publicly -- and when you disclose them to Congress, lots of times, they leak into the press -- then why would world leaders want to have conversations together?” he said.

Asked whether he was aware that Trump had pressed Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, Mnuchin said, “I was not on that call, so I'm not aware.”



The secretary has been on “plenty of other calls with the president,” and other people listen to these calls, so Mnuchin said he doesn’t expect there were “any issues whatsoever.”

Tapper asked whether it was common for the president to press foreign leaders to investigate political rivals in the U.S.

“I haven't heard that,” Mnuchin said, “and I think you're speculating on what the president said.

“I would say these are confidential discussions between two foreign leaders, but I think the bigger issue is, Biden came out this weekend saying he had never any discussions with his son. His son came out and said he had had business discussions with his father. So I really think the real issue is not what the president said, but what, indeed, did Biden's son do?” he said.


TAPPER: I think what you're referring to is that, in a ‘New Yorker’ story a few months ago, Hunter Biden said that they talked about it once, and it was just Joe Biden saying to him, ‘I know you know what you are doing.’ So that is the issue here, but the reason -- you say it is speculative, but The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have both reported on the contents of the call. 

There is a whistle-blower who is trying to bring attention to this to Congress, and just as a general premise, is it OK with you for a president, any president, to pressure a foreign leader, a foreign leader that wants hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States in aid, to investigate a political rival. Is that acceptable?

MNUCHIN: Well, you're speculating that the president pressured. I don't have any reason to believe that the president pressured...

TAPPER: He brought it up eight times.

MNUCHIN: ... in any way. Again, you're speculating. Just...

TAPPER: That is not speculating. That is in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal that he...

MNUCHIN: So -- so, everything in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, we should assume, is always factual?

TAPPER: OK. So how many times did he bring it up, then?

MNUCHIN: I'm not aware. As I said, I wasn't on the call. Given everything we have going on this week in Iran, everything else around the world, I find it interesting that there's so much interest in this story, when, again, there's lots of people who listened to this call.

It wasn't a secret that one person was on and said something. Again, people know there were issues that Biden's son did business in Ukraine. I, for one, as an individual, have concerns about that, but there is really no issue here. I was in principal meetings when we discussed foreign aid to Ukraine. Nothing ever came up that there was any link or anything else. I think things are being implied that just don't exist.



MRC Store