Audio: The Trump prank call

Imagine how confused all the foreign spy agencies listening in on Trump’s phone calls must have been by this one.

On the other hand, why would foreign spies need to hack his phone when they could just dial him up, posing as a senator, and talk to him directly?

It’s not like there’s even a modicum of real verification happening.

[John Melendez] initially called the White House switchboard while recording his podcast Wednesday and identified himself, but was unable to get through.

Melendez said he subsequently called the switchboard back, affecting an accent and claiming to be [Sen. Robert Menendez’s] assistant. The operator believed him and transferred him to a subordinate who told him that the president was unavailable because he was giving a speech at the time.

Melendez said he gave him his cell phone number, which had a Southern California prefix. When a White House operator noted how the information he provided did not match up with the information the White House had for the senator, Melendez explained it by saying that he was on vacation.

Somehow he got patched through to Jared Kushner on Air Force One, who arranged for Trump to call the number Melendez had provided. POTUS spent four minutes talking to who he thought was the Democratic senator from New Jersey. According to Axios, “White House staff members are freaking out today trying figure out how the podcast host was so easily transferred from the White House switchboard to Air Force One.” Sure. As if the Chinese don’t do this to them 15 times a day.

Right now you’re wondering, “How do we know that’s really Trump on the call and not an impersonator?” Well, apart from the fact that the White House itself seems to think it’s really him, per Axios, there’s the small matter that … nothing eventful happens on the call, as you’re about to hear. That’s the most amazing thing about it. Melendez, a.k.a. “Stuttering John” for old-school Howard Stern fans, had the president on the phone with tape rolling and didn’t attempt to embarrass him at all. No off-the-wall questions that might have put Trump on the spot, nothing about Russia or Putin that might have made news if Melendez had baited him into saying something provocative about NATO or the Mueller probe or whatever. Even weirder, Melendez is known to Stern fans for asking embarrassing questions of famous people. He used to show up to celebrity events and political gatherings and read off jokey queries that Stern had written for him. The White House’s screw-up gave him the ultimate chance to do it again. He whiffed.

All of which is to say, why would Melendez have faked a conversation as prosaic as this? If he was working with an impersonator, he would have scripted it for laughs. It must be real.

Wait until we find out that the person known as “Steve Bannon” is just an elaborate prank by a pair of German comedians linked to Angela Merkel who thought it’d be funny to try to get close to Trump and then had to keep the prank going when Trump named “Bannon” his campaign manager. Exit question: Why didn’t Melendez pose as a Republican senator, at least? Trump would have been less guarded talking to a member of his own party than he’d be talking to a Democrat.