Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In what appears to be a bizarre security breach, comedian John Melendez claims he tricked the White House into putting him on the phone with President Donald Trump while pretending to be Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez.
The White House has declined to comment – to either confirm or deny it. But a source familiar with the matter says the White House reached out to the senator’s office afterward asking why he had called. The source said Menendez’s office informed the White House that he had not talked to the president.
Melendez, who has worked on The Howard Stern Show and NBC’s Tonight Show, recorded the entire alleged conversation with the president for his “Stuttering John” podcast, which aired on Thursday.
The alleged call raises questions about the security clearance process, and how, if it happened, the comedian could be patched through for a one-on-one conversation with the president without first being vetted.
In the podcast, Melendez, who said he’s had a past relationship with Trump, can be heard calling what sounds like the White House switchboard but was unable to get through to the president.
He later called back, changed his identity, and claimed to work for Sen. Bob Menendez.
In the podcast, the purported White House operator notes the cell phone number had a California area code, and didn’t match the records they had for the senator, but the comedian, still imitating Menendez, explains he was on vacation. The senator represents New Jersey.
Eventually, according to what’s heard on the podcast, the supposed White House calls Melendez back and then connects him with the president while he was aboard Air Force One Wednesday.
The source familiar with the matter says the White House never called Sen. Menendez’s office to verify if, in fact, he was trying to reach the president.
An aide to Sen. Menendez told ABC News that the only communication the senator’s office had with the White House came on Thursday, in the form of an e-mail from the White House Legislative Affairs office.
In the podcast, Melendez described how he was contacted by several Trump staffers, including his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, before, he says, being patched through to Trump himself.
“Hi, Bob. How are you, congratulations on everything, we’re proud of you. Congratulations, you’re doing a great job,” “Trump” says at the start of the phone call.
“You went through a tough, tough situation – and I don’t think a very fair situation – but congratulations,” the purported Trump goes on, referring to Sen. Menendez’s past indictment on corruption charges. His trial ended in a hung jury and a federal judge declared a mistrial and later the Justice Department dismissed all charges.
Melendez, still imitating Sen. Menendez, asks “Trump” what he should tell his constituents about immigration policy going forward.
“So Bob, let me just tell you: I want to be able to take care of the situation every bit as much as anyone else, at the top level,” “Trump” responds. “I’d like to do the larger solution rather than the smaller solution; they’re doing them step by step. I think we can do the whole thing.”
“Trump” goes on: “I have a good relationship with the party, you have a good relationship with the party, and I think we could do a real immigration bill. We have to have security at the border, we have to have it. I mean, look, you’ve got 60 percent of the country, they’ve got to have security at the border.”
“And that’s a good excuse for the Democrats too, Bob. It’s not like, it’s good for you or good for me, it’s good for both of us … I’m tired of the problem. So Bob, here’s what – let me do this, I’m on Air Force One, uh, I’m just coming back from an amazing rally in North Dakota, actually,” Trump says.
Melendez also inquired about the Supreme Court vacancy, and also urged “the president” not to pick someone “too conservative.”
“Yeah,” “Trump” responds on the call.
“I have a list of people, I have a big list of people Bob, and we’ll take a look and it and we’re gonna make a decision, I’ll probably make it over the next couple of weeks,” “Trump” went on, saying he’d have a decision on the nominee within the next 12-14 days.
Sen. Menendez weighed in on the apparent prank call on Friday.
“As someone who has spent my entire career trying to convince Republicans to join me in reforming our nation’s broken immigration system, I welcome any opportunity to have a real conversation with the president on how to uphold the American values that guided our family-based immigration policy for the past century,” Sen. Menendez said in a statement to ABC News.
“Tearing children apart from their mothers is not part of our proud history. Thus far, this White House has only sabotaged every good-faith effort to find bipartisan common ground on immigration.”
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