President Donald Trump is perpetually unprepared for telephone calls with foreign leaders, leaving White House staff nervous as they try to coach him on what to say.

In the first few months of the Trump era, the president’s erratic telephone etiquette and demeanor often confused and upset foreign leaders. A system was set up to prevent Trump from rambling on and engaging in potentially inappropriate tangents. The officials also tried to ensured that Trump made factual statements. 

Whether the White House used the system for the July 25, 2019 telephone call in which Trump attempted to coerce the Ukrainian president into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden remains unconfirmed. The administration started limiting who could directly listen in on White House telephone calls long before the scandal erupted. 

Trump tweeted Tuesday:

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Earlier in the Trump-era, seven or eight staff members would assist with his calls. However, the administration began limiting who could help after telephone transcripts with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were leaked.

Trump would often “mute” important telephone calls, so White House officials could offer him insight and guidance in crafting an appropriate response. The Oval Office set up the assistance system program because Trump was notorious for not reading the preparation memorandums and for going off on random tangents while speaking with foreign leaders

The current White House policy allows four officials to listen in on calls with a foreign leader. Those not placed on the assistance blacklist include the national security adviser, the national security council director and deputy director for that region. 

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