White House transcript reveals confused exchange between Trump and US officials as they try to figure out whether someone took notes during his meeting with Kim Jong Un

  • President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to discuss whether notes were taken from a one-on-one meeting with Kim Jong Un during a press conference.
  • The exchange was recorded in the White House's transcript for the Singapore press conference on Tuesday.
  • Trump asks, apparently referring to Secretary of State Pompeo: "Mike, do they have a transcript?" before telling a reporter "No, they didn’t record it. I don’t think they recorded it. Are there any recordings of it?"
  • The US interpreter who was with the president will create the official notes from the meeting, but Trump reassured press saying he doesn't need verification because he has "one of the great memories of all time."


President Donald Trump and US officials seem confused over whether notes were taken during Trump's private meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on Tuesday.

After the two leaders signed a joint statement, Trump gave a wide-ranging press conference. During this time, according to a White House transcript, Trump and a person he refers to as "Mike," thought to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appeared to be unsure whether notes were taken during a 38-minute one-on-one meeting with Kim earlier in the day.

This is the White House's official transcript, which was emailed to news outlets including Business Insider on Tuesday, featuring the second-to-last series of questions Trump responded to:

Q:    Is there a transcript of (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: What?

Q:    Is there a transcript of (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: Mike, do they have a transcript? They probably have a rough transcript, which you can give us, if you have one.

Q:    So that was recorded?

THE PRESIDENT: No, they didn’t record it. I don’t think they recorded it. Are there any recordings of it?  I wish there were. Because it is interesting stuff.

Q:    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Say it?

Q:    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t. We probably have some notes or something.  But they have, actually, detailed notes, I would imagine.  But we had a great conversation.  It was a very heart-felt conversation.

Q:    How do you believe (inaudible) verify —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t have to verify because I have one of the great memories of all time.  So I don’t have to.  Okay?  Okay?

It appears that during the press conference, Trump asks Pompeo if a recording was made, to which the answer seems to be "no." Trump then said he wished it could have been recorded.

Without a recording, the closest thing the Trump administration will have to a transcript of Kim's time alone with Trump are the notes of the US interpreter.

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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un leave after signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un after they signed documents that acknowledged the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Anthony Wallace/Pool via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attend a signing ceremony during a summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Anthony Wallace/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during the signing of a document after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Susan Walsh/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un react during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Anthony Wallace/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un look at each others before signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. They are flanked by Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk in the Capella Hotel after their working lunch, on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Susan Walsh/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Kevin Lim/The Straits Times via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Kevin Lim/The Straits Times via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un react at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures next to North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un before their bilateral meeting at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
TOPSHOT - Pedestrians walk in front of a screen showing a news report displaying portraits of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Tokyo on June 12, 2018. - Trump and Kim have become on June 12 the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, shake hands and negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
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This person will turn their notes, taken while also translating for Trump, and format them into a Memorandum of Conversation. It seems this document, which could just be a summary of the discussion, will be provided to Pompeo and the US National Archives as the only official record of the meeting.

While this is standard practice, it is less common for US administrations to be unclear about whether a recording was even taken. It's also unprecedented for the full recollections of a crucial meeting between world leaders, to be left up to Trump, who is widely known to frequently exaggerate the truth.

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