Rep. Nunes said in a committee hearing that to his knowledge the details/transcripts of Trump's phone calls with the Australian PM and the Mexican President were the first leaks of this kind. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire whom Nunes was questioning did not contradict that.

So, basically, is this claim true then that no US presidential calls were leaked before Trump became president? And is it absolutely true, i.e. no substantive details whatsoever leaked regarding pre-Trump presidential phone calls, or is it true just regarding whole transcripts?

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This might depend a bit on what you think qualifies. Here are three incidents I could quickly find that are similar, but have some notable differences.

  • There was an alleged leak of an Obama/Netanyahu transcript in Israeli media, though official word from the Whitehouse and Netanyahu's government were that it was completely fabricated.
  • Some conversations of Reagan's were recorded and not discovered until much later, via FOIA.
  • The Watergate scandal that ended the Nixon administration turned heavily on the revelation, during Congressional testimony, that there was a system that recorded all conversations in the Oval Office. This in turn was precipitated by the whistleblower leaks of "Deep Throat" that implicated the President and much of the higher echelons of the Executive Branch in the events, and cover-ups thereof. The actual content of the (relevant) taped conversations was not known until later, when the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon could not use executive privilege to withhold the tapes. As an aside, Congressional Republicans remained largely united in their defense of Nixon until these tapes came out. After their contents became public the tide rapidly changed, leading to Nixon resigning to avoid a Senate trial he was now unlikely to survive. Direct recordings of Presidential conversations was largely ceased thereafter as a result (though see the previous Reagan example for examples where it still happened).

I would say that the Watergate scandal is the most obvious rebuke to this claim. Trump's administration has suffered (from very early on) a large number of leaks via anonymous informants, a la Deep Throat. And in both cases this seems to have precipitated more leaks on a variety of fronts (Nixon was implicated in a lot more than just the Watergate cover-up, including tax cheats and other abuses of power), ultimately culminating in more substantive leaks and revelations of hard evidence.

There are clear differences in the exact situations between Watergate and the current bevy of Trump scandals, though whether they are a matter of splitting hairs or substantive significance on this particular question is something I'll leave to opinion here.

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    The trove of leaks from Wikileaks would be another place to look, though that's massive and I couldn't find any direct references to it containing any records of Presidential phone calls. It did definitely contain many diplomatic cables, but to my limited understanding these involved a large number of diplomats and not (necessarily?) the President himself. Oct 31, 2019 at 5:35

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