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Making history: The scramble to document presidents’ summits

It's a decades-old system intended to ensure that senior officials, and ultimately historians, have a listing of what American presidents say to international leaders. And it is just one that held up -- largely -- under former President Donald Trump, such as if he shot the notes taken by his own American interpreter in a meeting with Putin at 2017.

Trump's determination to keep his discussions with the Russian president private sparked concerns regarding what might have happened in those personal meetings, especially given Trump's cozy relationship with Putin.

Former U.S. officials acknowledge the unusual and concerning nature of Trump's desire for secrecy, which a former official familiar with the subject says additionally contained Trump routinely waving off the usual immediate debriefings by aides after his one-on-ones with leaders. But from the run-up to Biden's first session together with Putin as president in Geneva, the U.S. official explained to The Associated Press the swift steps taken to preserve records of Trump's private discussions with Putin.

That included the veteran State Department interpreter to get Trump at his hours-long private talk with Putin at Helsinki, Finland, in 2018 alerting senior U.S. officials"instantaneously" following the meeting to concerning details, including that the 2 men had broached invoking an existing treaty that could have allowed Russians to get involved in interrogations of U.S. officials, the former official said.

And at the summit a year before in Hamburg, Germany, where Trump seized the interpreter's notes, Americans managed to debrief Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, that also jotted down notes,'' the former official said.

When Trump unexpectedly sat down next to Putin and first woman Melania Trump that night for a long discussion, press reports at the time said it seemed no other Americans were in earshot. However, the former official said they were able to construct a record of what was said from the very first woman's aides, who were sitting alongside her.

Trump in one way made it easier for listeners to follow along with record his personal words with Putin. Appearing dazzled from the pomp and export from this summits, Trump would need to ask interpreters to repeat Putin's comments"half the time," the former official said.

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