US comedian John Melendez prank called US President Donald Trump for a podcast episode Thursday, and ended up being passed from the White House operator to Trump adviser Jared Kushner and eventually, astonishingly, to the president himself.
Melendez, who used to work at the Howard Stern Show, said that he'd met Trump on a few occasions before and that prior to becoming president, Trump "always picked up" his calls. "Let's see if it still works," Melendez said.
The White House switchboard number, it should be noted, is a public number, though the idea of any average joe using it to contact the commander in chief is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, Stuttering John Melendez appears to have done just that, despite behavior that must have raised red flag after red flag.
— John Melendez (@stutteringjohnm) June 29, 2018
A White House source confirmed to Politico that there was no record of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) attempting to call the president. The Office of Legislative Affairs apparently caught wind of the call and tried to kill it, but it was put through anyways. Now, the White House is reportedly scrambling to figure out what went wrong.
Melendez and his co-hosts began their epic prank by simply calling the White House switchboard. Melendez asks the operator to speak with the president and says "this is his friend, Stuttering John." The operator tells him that Trump is not available. "Could you get him a message, because he knows me. He's been on the phone with me a bunch of times. Tell him it's Stuttering John Melendez."
"I need some real estate advice. He always gives me real estate advice" he tells the operator. When she won't tell him a better time to reach the president, he asks to speak with Melania, Trump's wife and first lady of the United States, instead. The operator hangs up.
Melendez's co-host then calls the number again, saying it's "John Stirling" calling for "Senator John Menendez," referencing actual Democratic senator from New Jersey Bob Menendez. They realize their error and call back for a bit more fun, asking the operator if she's taking notes with a hammer and chisel. Melendez also comments that he "loves" Trump's assistant, Madeleine.
When the operator asks the senator's first name, Melendez this time gets it right, saying he's "Bob." She then asks if it's really "Robert."
"Yes, but we call him Bob. Bob-a-booie," the comedian says, laughing with his co-hosts.
Eventually, they were transferred to somebody else who told them that they'd get a call back after Trump left the stage at his rally in North Dakota, Wednesday.
They are in fact called back by a White House staffer, who noticed that the number they gave didn't match the one they had on record for Sen. Menendez. Melendez said that was because he was on vacation. "Oh, you're on vacation? Ok, great. I just needed to clarify that," she said.
Later, within the course of two hours, Melendez got a call back from none other than Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who was aboard Air Force One with Trump at the time. Kushner then connected the comedian to the president.
— Annie Karni (@anniekarni) June 29, 2018
"Hi Bob!" Trump says. "How are you? Congratulations on everything. We're proud of you. Congratulations. Great job. You went through a tough, tough situation and I don't think a very fair situation, so congratulations."
The real Menendez was indicted in 2015 on charges of bribery and fraud. But in late 2017, Judge William H Walls declared a mistrial because of the jury's continuing inability to reach a unanimous verdict. Then, in early 2018, the Justice Department dropped all charges against him. He was nonetheless admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee in April for taking gifts from a donor whose business interests he had been petitioning the State Department for.
Melendez began the call with the president by asking him about his plans on immigration, telling him he needs to be able to tell his constituents about more than just the president's reform of his "zero tolerance" policy, which resulted in mass separation of child refugees from their parents.
"Bob let me just tell you I want to be able to take care of the situation, every bit as much as anybody else, at the top level. I'd like to do the larger solution rather than the smaller solution," Trump said. "You know, they're doing them step by step. I think we can do the whole thing. You know I have a good relationship with the party, you have a good relationship with the party. And I think we can do a real immigration bill. We have to have security at the border, we have to have it. I mean, look, you got 60 percent of the country — they got to have security at the border. And that's a good [unintelligible] for the Democrats too, Bob."
The two continue talking about immigration and the president tells him he's aboard Air Force One, coming back from an "amazing" rally in North Dakota.
Finally, Melendez asks the president about his plans for replacing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and whether he was seeking to nominate a hardline conservative.
"Well I haven't looked — I mean I have a list of people. I have a big list of people, Bob, and we'll take a look at it and we're gonna make a decision. I'll probably make it over the next couple weeks," Trump said. "We have some great choices and [it will] be done over the next 12 to 14 days."
As the two hang up the phone, Melendez can be heard uttering "hallelujah."