In a major breach of White House security, comedian John Melendez was able to speak to President Donald Trump on Air Force One while pretending to be New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, CNN confirmed on Friday.
In “The Stuttering John Podcast,” Melendez, who is better known by his stage name Stuttering John, said that he called Trump on Wednesday night, and Trump later returned his call from Air Force One, while returning from a rally in Fargo.
CNN said that a White House official confirmed the incident to one of its producers on Friday.
“I am shocked … I mean we did this as a goof, I’m a comedian,” Melendez told CNN. “I just could not believe that it took us an hour and a half to get Jared Kushner and Donald Trump on the phone from Air Force One.”
In the audio clip, Trump begins by congratulating Melendez — who he thinks is Menendez — for his acquittal in a federal corruption case. The two also discuss the families who have been separated by Trump’s immigration order and the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy that will be left when Justice Anthony Kennedy steps down from his position as Associate Justice at the end of July.
Former Howard Stern sidekick Melendez told CNN that he initially called the White House and told them his real identity, but the White House said Trump was busy and hung up. Melendez called again, this time putting on a British accent and pretending to be an assistant to Menendez. The White House said they would call him back on a cellphone, and sure enough, Trump called him back. Melendez put on a Long Island accent for his call with the president.
“The President wants to be accessible to members and likes engaging them and wants them to have the opportunity to connect. The downside of that is sometimes the channels are open too widely and mistakes like this happen,” a White House official said about the incident, per CNN.
According to CNN, someone in the White House Legislative Affairs Office reached out to Menendez’s office about the phone call on Thursday morning, but his staffers were confused and didn’t know what he was talking about.
The real Menendez issued a statement on Friday afternoon.
“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. 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,” he said.