White House Transcript Confirms Trump Asked Ukraine President To Investigate Biden
The White House has released a summary of the July 25th phone call between President Trump and the President of Ukraine. It doesn't help President Trump or his defenders.
As had been promised late yesterday, the White House released a summary of the President’s July 25th phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and it confirms that the President did indeed ask the Ukrainians to investigate his potential political rival:
President Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered to meet with the foreign leader at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly-released transcript of the call.
Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law. In late August, intelligence officials referred the matter to the Justice Department as a possible crime, but prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials.
The administration’s disclosures underscore how the president’s phone call has consumed the federal government in recent days, and how the White House is now scrambling to defuse the situation by offering more details of what the president said.
White House officials said the transcript does not show the president seeking an investigation of Biden’s son in exchange for providing aid to Ukraine. When the president reminds Zelensky of how the U.S. helps Ukraine, Zelensky responds that he appreciates the tough sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Russia.
As expected, there is nothing in the “transcript” which is really a summary of what the two men said to each other during the July 25th call, that can be called a quid pro quo in which the President specifically makes military aid contingent on reopening the Biden investigation. That being said, what the transcript actually says hardly vindicates the President:
The call begins with Trump congratulating Zelensky on his election victory, but quickly devolves into the president pressing for an investigation of his political rivals and endorsing an apparent conspiracy theory. He seems to suggest Hillary Clinton’s private email server is in Ukraine and asserts that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation started with that country. He repeatedly says Zelensky should work with Attorney General William P. Barr or his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Giuliani had separately pressed Ukrainian officials for a Biden inquiry.
“I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it,” Trump says, according to the transcript.
He adds later: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. … It sounds horrible to me.”
Zelensky replied that “my candidate” for the prosecutor job “will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue.”
At the outset of the call, Trump also asks for Ukraine’s help in finding the location of the Democratic National Committee server that U.S. officials say was hacked by Russian intelligence in the run-up to the 2016 election.
“The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump says according to the transcript. “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”
The transcript, in keeping with White House practice, is a memorandum of a telephone conversation and is not a verbatim account of the conversation. The text reflects the notes and memories of officials in the Situation Room. A disclaimer in the transcript warns that a number of factors “can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent.”
During the course of the phone call, Trump also makes specific mention of his private attorney Rudy Giuliani, whose involvement in all of this I wrote about this morning, as well as Attorney General William Barr and officials at the State Department. Perhaps the most significant thing about the call, though, is the fact that the President’s repeated mention of the Biden affair and his obvious and open appeal to “dig up dirt” about a political opponent came right after President Zelensky made reference to the aforementioned military aid, which the President had blocked just days before, as well as the sale of other defensive military equipment. Immediately after Zelensky brings that up, Trump immediately mentions that he needs the Ukrainian President to do him a favor, and that favor involves reopening the investigation of Hunter Biden and, by extension, the former Vice-President. That may not be an explicit quid pro quo, but it is most certainly an implicit one and it provides more than enough ground for further investigation of this matter by the relevant Congressional Committee(s).
Even with just this summary as evidence, it is clear that President Trump acted improperly with respect to this matter. Asking the political leader of another country to intervene to investigate someone who could very well be his rival in his 2020 General Election is clear an improper use of his office for personal gain. Additionally, The transcript, which is really a summary, confirms that the President pressured President Zelensky to reopen an investigation that potentially could touch on a domestic political rival. This is at least improper and potentially illegal. If nothing else, this justifies the decision by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to formally designate the ongoing investigation as an impeachment inquiry. Whatever may happen in the future, the President has left Congress with no other option at this point.
That doesn’t mean the investigation is complete, of course, but it also doesn’t mean that the President is vindicated. In fact, it means quite the opposite and that there are grounds to expand this investigate beyond just the July 25th phone call to include persons such as Giuliani, Barr, and others. Additionally, Congress and specifically the Intelligence Committees in the House and Senate need to be provided with a copy of the whistleblower’s complaint as required by law as well as access to the whistleblower. There are apparently negotiations with the lawyer representing the whistleblower going on right now to make the second happen, but the White House is refusing, without justification, to provide a copy of the complaint. In any case, if the White House thought that releasing this transcript would end the matter, they were woefully mistaken.
Here is the transcript/summary: