By Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey
Oct. 4, 2019 at 7:19 p.m. EDT
In one of his first calls with a head of state, President Trump fawned over Russian President Vladimir Putin, telling the man who ordered interference in America’s 2016 election that he was a great leader and apologizing profusely for not calling him sooner.
He pledged to Saudi officials in another call that he would help the monarchy enter the elite Group of Seven, an alliance of the world’s leading democratic economies.
He promised the president of Peru that he would deliver to his country a C-130 military cargo plane overnight, a logistical nightmare that set off a herculean scramble in the West Wing and Pentagon.
And in a later call with Putin, Trump asked the former KGB officer for his guidance in forging a friendship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — a fellow authoritarian hostile to the United States.
Starting long before revelations about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president rocked Washington, Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders were an anxiety-ridden set of events for his aides and members of the administration, according to former and current officials. They worried that Trump would make promises he shouldn’t keep, endorse policies the United States long opposed, commit a diplomatic blunder that jeopardized a critical alliance, or simply pressure a counterpart for a personal favor.
“There was a constant undercurrent in the Trump administration of [senior staff] who were genuinely horrified by the things they saw that were happening on these calls,” said one former White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations. “Phone calls that were embarrassing, huge mistakes he made, months and months of work that were upended by one impulsive tweet.”