White House Oval Office conversations
May 15, 2017 7:07 PM   Subscribe

When the President and a World leader sit down in the Oval Office and have a conversation, is there a record of the conversation?

I'm thinking of President Trump specifically, but it could encompass past presidents. I'm really not even interested in recordings. When leaders have a sit down, and agreements are reached, is there any record of their conversation? What would stop a leader from denying what was agreed to? Traditionally, is there a record?
posted by rudy26 to Law & Government (5 answers total)
Aides take notes.
posted by Freedomboy at 10:24 PM on May 15, 2017

Freedomboy is correct. Even in 2017, you usually have an aide taking handwritten notes during a high-level meeting. This is then turned into a number of products, ranging from a near-transcript to a detailed memo to a brief summary.
posted by whitewall at 2:58 AM on May 16, 2017

Best answer: Definitely. Well I can't speak for what might be happening, or not, over there. But this is a basic part of the job of senior to very senior level bureaucrats in most, if not all governments. Usually someone sitting in the background taking notes but a lot is simply filed in the memory banks (because that person is usually a subject specialist), then a meeting record is produced and circulated internally and filed as a record. The public record is usually a press release or communique which is often pre-written and agreed by both principals beforehand.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:18 AM on May 16, 2017

Here's an example of the report made from notes taken in a high level meeting (Carter-Brezhnev).
posted by LingeringMoon at 8:22 AM on May 16, 2017

It would be naive to suppose that all high-level discussions between world leaders are conducted on the record. The Chilcot Report made it clear that in the run-up to the Iraq War, Bush and Blair held a number of private conversations with no one present to take notes. What exactly was agreed in those conversations is still a matter of dispute. Here, for example, is Sir Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to the US, giving evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry on the famous meeting at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002:
Now, let me be quite frank about this. Crawford was a meeting at the President's ranch. I took no part in any of the discussions, and there was a large chunk of that time when no adviser was there, I think. I don't know whether David Manning has been before you yet, but when he comes before you, he will tell you, I think, that he went there with Jonathan Powell for a discussion of Arab/Israel and the Intifada. I think it was at that meeting that there was a kind of joint decision between Bush and Blair that Colin Powell should go to the region and get it sorted.

I believe that, after that, the two men were alone in the ranch until dinner on Saturday night where all the advisers, including myself, turned up.

So I'm not entirely clear to this day -- I know what the Cabinet Office says were the results of the meeting, but, to this day, I'm not entirely clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood, at the Crawford ranch.
posted by verstegan at 2:00 PM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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