The national media continues to misrepresent facts surrounding the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. Released transcripts on Wednesday show that the President did not exert pressure or offer any repayment when he asked Zelensky to probe the dealings of former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, according to a transcript (pdf) of a call between the two leaders released by the White House on Sept. 25.
You would not know that from national headlines and calls for impeachment by Democrats. Here’s the story.
During the call, Zelensky was the first to bring up Rudy Giuliani, the Trump attorney who had looked into the Ukrainian business dealings of Hunter Biden. In response, Trump noted that Giuliani is a “respected man” and told Zelensky that he would like to have Giuliani call him. Trump then refers to videotaped comments in which Joe Biden describes how he forced the termination of a top Ukrainian prosecutor by withholding loans. The prosecutor was allegedly investigating Burisma, the gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board of directors.
“The other thing, 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,” Trump said.
“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
The White House released the transcript the morning after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, triggered largely by allegations surrounding the content of the president’s call with the Ukrainian leader. According to Pelosi and other Democrats, Trump’s request for an investigation is inappropriate since Biden was officially running for president at the time of the call. Pelosi noted that the request did not need to feature a quid pro quo in order to be inappropriate.
The Trump-Zelensky call is the subject of a whistleblower complaint sent to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG). The complaint stirred up controversy because the ICIG reached out to Congress to complain that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence failed to forward the complaint to lawmakers. The Senate voted on Sept. 24 to demand the release of the complaint.
Prior to the release of the transcript, Trump had repeatedly stated that the conversation was appropriate.
“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!” Trump wrote shortly before the White House released the transcript.
In addition to discussing the Biden investigation, the two leaders also discussed at least two other investigations. Earlier in the call, Trump asked Zelensky about a server in possession of a wealthy Ukrainian citizen. Trump provides little detail but references Crowdstrike, the information technology company which examined the Democratic National Committee server after it was allegedly hacked by Russian operatives.
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump said.
The two leaders also discussed former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Zelensky thanked Trump for flagging Yovanovitch as a “bad ambassador.”
“Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous president and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new president well enough,” Trump said.
The exchange suggests that both the United States and Ukraine may be examining Yovanovitch’s conduct. Zelensky asked Trump for assistance in the matter and Trump said that he will have Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr call the Ukrainian leader.