Biden (subtly) jabs at Trump with reference to diplomatic notes

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In remarks in Chicago yesterday, President Joe Biden spoke about the extensive time he’s spent over the years with China’s Xi Jinping. In fact, the Democrat noted that he’s met alone with the Chinese president, just the two men and a simultaneous interpreter, for a total of more than 68 hours.

Biden added, apparently as an unscripted aside, “By the way, I turned in all my notes.”

And why, pray tell, would the American president make such a comment? Why would it matter that Biden turned in his notes after meeting with the Chinese leader?

It might not have been immediately obvious to everyone, but he was taking a not-so-subtle rhetorical shot at his immediate predecessor.

Revisiting our earlier coverage, ahead of his July 2018 summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump insisted that the meeting be limited to a one-on-one discussion, with no other U.S. officials, even members of the Trump cabinet, participating. The Republican White House never exactly explained why, but the assumption throughout the government was that the American leader would brief U.S. officials on the details of the meeting afterwards.

That didn’t happen. White House officials, military leaders, and even then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats all conceded in the days following the summit that they didn’t fully know what transpired behind closed doors.

It wasn’t an isolated incident. The Washington Post reported nearly a year later that Trump went to “extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations” with the Russian leader.

[Trump has established a pattern] of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries. As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years.

The article added that all of this was seen as unusual, and officials conceded that Trump’s behavior was “at odds with the known practices of previous presidents, who have relied on senior aides to witness meetings and take comprehensive notes then shared with other officials and departments.”

In one instance, according to the Post’s reporting, Trump “took possession” of his own interpreter’s notes after a conversation with Putin.

And that, of course, was what Biden was only too pleased to reference during his remarks yesterday.

This post revises our related earlier coverage.

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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