In the politically charged run-up to Wednesday’s release of a transcript of a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, media accounts claimed the call would show Trump demanding a quid pro quo from Ukraine.
Critics said Trump was withholding $400 million in aid from Ukraine as a bargaining chip he was using to get Ukraine to investigate past activities of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.
However, the transcript released by the White House on Wednesday makes no mention of the aid, which Trump has said was withheld due to concerns about corruption. It was eventually released to Ukraine in September.
Trump tweeted that the transcript should short-circuit Democrats’ effort to use it as a pretext for impeachment.
Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President? They should, a perfect call – got them by surprise!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2019
The transcript itself notes that the account is not a fully verbatim record of the 30-minute call, but that it is based on notes and memories of others in the White House Situation Room.
The transcript comes with a disclaimer that many factors “can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent.”
Zelensky does reference military aid briefly.
“I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes,” he said.
Trump voices concerns to Zelensky regarding what appears to be individuals related to Russian interference with the 2016 election becoming part of Zelensky’s inner circle.
He later refers to the 2016 action by Ukraine to drop prosecution of the energy company Burisma Holdings, an action that ended possible prosecution of the Burisma-linked Hunter Biden, son of the former vice president.
“[T]here’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,” Trump said. “It sounds horrible to me.”
Zelensky is quick to respond positively.
“I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation,” he said.
“Since we have won the absolute majority in our parliament; the next prosecutor general will be 100 percent my person, my candidate, who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case.”
Zelensky agreed to look into the matter and communicate as necessary with Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney.
Much of the rest of the transcript was devoted to pleasantries between the two leaders and mutual hopes for increased trade.
The call came a day after Trump was denounced in advance for what the transcript might show.
In announcing the beginning what she said would be a formal impeachment inquiry, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said “the actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” according to The Washington Post.
Hillary Clinton, who Trump defeated in the 2016 election, said she supports House Democrats’ drive for impeachment.
The president of the United States has betrayed our country.
That’s not a political statement—it’s a harsh reality, and we must act.
He is a clear and present danger to the things that keep us strong and free.
I support impeachment.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 25, 2019
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham responded to Pelosi with a statement, according to CNN.
“Americans deserve elected officials who focus on key issues to improve the lives of families, strengthen our communities, grow our economy, and keep our country safe. In President Donald J. Trump they have someone who has not only focused on those goals, but delivered results,” she said.
“In a far departure from all of the work and results of this President, House Democrats have destroyed any chances of legislative progress for the people of this country by continuing to focus all their energy on partisan political attacks. Their attacks on the President and his agenda are not only partisan and pathetic, they are in dereliction of their Constitutional duty,” Grisham added.
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