White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that two phone calls that President Donald Trump publicly mentioned — but were later disputed by others — didn’t actually happen, but were instead in-person conversations.
“The conversations took place,” Sanders said at a press briefing regarding Trump’s alleged phone calls between the head of the Boy Scouts and the president of Mexico. “They just simply didn’t take place over a phone call… He had them in person.”
The Boy Scouts organization said that they were “unaware” of a phone conversation between Trump and chief executive Michael Surbaugh. Mexico denied the conversation altogether, saying in a statement: “President Enrique Peña Nieto has not had any recent telephone communication with President Donald Trump.”
The first instance took place July 25, when Trump told the Wall Street Journal that Surbaugh had called him with praise following the President’s appearance a day earlier at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia — despite his speech drawing wide criticism for its political overtones and Surbaugh later writing to parents that he “regret[ed] that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
“I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful,” Trump said in the Journal interview, according to a transcript obtained and published by Politico.
What Trump was actually referring to, Sanders said, was in-person conversations with “multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership, following his speech there that day,” who “congratulated him, praised him and offered quite powerful compliments following his speech.”
Then on Monday, Trump claimed to have received a call from Peña Nieto after the swearing in of new chief of staff, John Kelly.
“Even the president of Mexico called me,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “Their southern border, they said very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get to our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”
Sanders said that Trump was actually referring to an in-person chat with the Mexican president last month at the Group 20 Summit in Hamburg.
“On Mexico, he was referencing the conversation that they had had at the G-20 Summit, where they specifically talked about the issues that he referenced,” Sanders said.
A reporter then asked her if Trump had lied.
“I wouldn’t say it was a lie,” Sanders said. “That’s a pretty bold accusation.”