Apparently the official phone calls of the US President are recorded and transcripts are made. This process has apparently resulted in multiple phone conversations being revealed to the public by persons unknown.

What is the procedure for recording the phone calls of the President? Can the President make calls that are not recorded and who has access to the transcripts of calls? Who makes the transcripts?

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    @SJuan76 That does not answer my question or having anything to do with espionage or leaking of phone call transcripts. Please remove that tag from my question. Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 17:47
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    @nelruk Does the red phone still exist? It would be interesting to see Putin and Trump exchange 140 char msgs over twitter on Ukraine and Syria files :p Ha life is getting more interesting with new technology and spreading messages around the world over the internet in mere seconds instead of 90 days with overseas snail-mail (horse-rider to ship, ship across ocean, ship to horse-rider). Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 19:43
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    would this question be better suited for Skeptics.SE? Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 4:05
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    @WinEunuuchs2Unix The "red phone" was never a phone. It was a teletype, then a fax, and now e-mail.
    – user71659
    Commented May 6, 2018 at 20:53
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    The German chancellors phone calls were illegally recorded. So you might add "legally" to your question.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 14:31

4 Answers 4


The BBC has covered this recently with respect to the procedures for the official calls, although the details will not answer all the sub-questions raised by the OP. Particularly not much is said about his private calls.

Traditionally, officials from the US national security council (NSC) brief the president before a call with a foreign leader. Then the briefers sit in the Oval Office with the president while he speaks on the phone with the foreign leader. "At least two members of the NSC are usually present," according to USA Today.

There will also be officials sitting in a secure room in another part of the White House, listening to the president's call and taking notes. Their notes are known as a "memorandum of telephone conversation", and like many things in Washington it has an abbreviation: "memcon".

The president's calls with foreign leaders are also transcribed by computers. Afterwards, as former White House officials explain, the human note takers compare their impressions with an electronic version of the call. The notes from the officials and from the computerised transcriptions are combined into one document. This transcript may not be perfect, but it is done as carefully as time and resources allow.


Officials who work in the executive secretary's office of the US national security council decide on the level of classification for the transcript of a call, explain former White House officials.

If the transcript contains information that could put national security or lives of individuals at risk, the transcript is classified as top secret and is kept in a protected area.

As former officials explain, these transcripts are shared through a system known by an acronym, Jwics, which stands for Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, a network that is used by people who work in the intelligence services.

Frequently, though, the transcripts are stored in areas that are secret but not guarded with this extraordinary level of security.

Classifying a transcript as secret - but not top secret - means that officials can discuss the contents of the presidents' calls more easily with others who work in the government.

So, in summary, there are both machine and human listeners and a composite "memcon" transcript is produced. The classification level of this memcon is either secret or top secret. It seems that any memcon that is judged to affect national security or risk US lives is classified as top secret; the rest are just secret.

And as a reminder, simply having the clearance level doesn't entitle one to access such information. One also needs to prove "need to know" when making the request. There are more compartments basically based on "pre-proved" need to know in various areas, but the BBC doesn't say how the memcons are compartmentalized (as opposed to just classified).


Yes the phone calls made by and made to the President of the United States are recorded in the interest of national security but the leaking of those recordings are breaches of national security unless explicitly authorized. Only people with a Yankee White security clearance will normally have access to these recordings and since they are expected to have undying loyalty to the United States it is unlikely to happen.

Source :

Donald Trump's Tweets.An example may be found here

Sometimes phone calls may be recorded by someone under their direction for record keeping or future use.

Another source (IEEE) - Link

The Presidential Records Act article may prove useful.


I worked for the Reagan and Bush Administrations, including a detail to the White House. was told on day one that ALL White House calls are recorded; thus, I never made personal calls during my tenure.

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    Not an answer to the question as asked. Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 16:45
  • Not really an answer about Presidential calls as such, but still interesting.
    – agc
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 17:37

According to the Washington Post Sept 25 2019 the answer (to the title question) appears to be: NO!

Below are excepts from that article that speak directly to the issue of "recordings" and the process by which "transcripts" are made:

Laurence Pfeiffer, a senior director of the White House Situation Room during the Obama administration:

White House conversations have not been recorded since the mid-1970s, when President Richard Nixon scandalized the practice.

Though audio of the calls is not recorded, per se, voice-recognition software [I think he is referring to Speech Recognition software like Dragon]is now used to help produce a baseline record of the call — almost like dictation — to get as close to verbatim as possible.

Pfeiffer said the software does not record or process the president’s voice. It processes the voice of a staffer who repeats what that person hears on the call. The software then produces a rough transcript. (my comment: this is what one might see in a courtroom, where the court reporter is speaking into a microphone repeating all that is heard into a microphone)

At the same time, [Pfieffer] said, other officials listening in on the call, whether in the Oval Office or another meeting room, are furiously scribbling their own notes, as close to word for word as their shorthand allows. Those listening in could be the president’s chief of staff, the national security adviser or a member of the NSC staff in charge of monitoring the other leader’s region of the world, as well as State and Defense Department officials. After the call, the note-takers compare their notes and consolidate a recollection of the conversation into one document, former officials said. Then it is passed to senior NSC staffers and other experts who listened, who compare it with their own notes and memories and also correct proper names and other errors the software made.

HOWEVER: “Don’t rely on whatever transcript is released,” said a former staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment candidly. “Even if it’s unredacted; those transcripts are heavily edited by political leadership at NSC. I’ve seen substance deleted from these call ‘transcripts’ to delete either superfluous details or more substance.”

Finally: Pfeiffer said the note-takers’ raw transcripts were preserved during his tenure to protect the president against mischaracterizations of a conversation by a foreign leader.

  • it should be noted that this answer is largely based on what former administrations did, which may not reflect what the current administration is actually doing.
    – BobE
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:55

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