President Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s new president to look into Joe and Hunter Biden and coordinate his probe with Attorney General William P. Barr, according to a transcript of the call released Wednesday by the White House.
“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 told Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to the transcript. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you ·can look into it. … It sounds horrible to me.”
The five-page transcript lays out what the president said during a July 25 call with Zelenskiy, a former comedian who had just been elected as Ukraine’s president.
The transatlantic telephone conversation is central to House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against the president. Details of the call began seeping into public after an intelligence community whistleblower, alarmed by a “promise” Trump allegedly made to Zelenskiy, filed a formal complaint to a top government inspector general on Aug. 12.
The transcript from the 30-minute phone call is just five pages. The White House notes at the top of the document that the two leaders spoke from 9:03 a.m. until 9:33 a.m. ET. Trump placed the call from the White House residence, it states.
A White House official said what was released was a complete transcription of the conversation.
Zelenskiy appears to signal to Trump that once he takes office he will indeed rekindle a government probe of an Ukrainian energy company for which Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, was employed as a board member.
“We will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation,” Zelenskiy says to Trump.
One illuminating aspect of the transcript is the extent to which Trump tried to make Barr a part of his efforts to convince a foreign government to launch a probe that could impact the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
“I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out,” Trump said on the call, referring to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
The White House transcript appears to confirm Trump’s claim that there was no explicit quid pro quo offered to the new Ukrainian leader and that Trump did not threaten to hold up a massive military aid package unless Zelenskiy agreed to look into the Bidens.
But House Democrats and some legal experts say the solicitation of foreign assistance for personal gain would constitute a crime even without a clear quid pro quo.
Trump appears pleased as the call ends, inviting Zelenskiy to the White House — and reiterating that his government-paid attorney general would be in touch about Zelenskiy’s promise to investigate Biden, who is a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
“I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call. Thank you,” Trump says. “Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call. Give us a date and we’ll work that out. I look forward to seeing you.”
Before he began his third day of meetings with other world leaders at a U.N. General Assembly session in New York, Trump fired off a series of tweets criticizing Democrats. Senior House Republicans are accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of abusing her power and trying to reverse the results of the 2016 election.
“Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President?” he wrote in one tweet. “They should, a perfect call — got them by surprise!”
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
Hours before the transcript was released, House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat, raised concerns about whether it would be a complete, word-for-word account of the conversation or a White House or State Department staffer’s notes. He told CNN he understands note-takers in this administration sometimes leave out parts of conversations with foreign leaders they think might upset the president or make him look bad.
“We won’t know whether what we get from the White House is the complete story in terms of that conversation,” Schiff said. “We certainly know we can’t rely on the White House to be forthcoming. … This president will go to extraordinary lengths to obstruct an investigation into his misconduct.”
‘A breach of constitutional responsibilities′
To the surprise of many, Trump and Giuliani have publicly admitted several actions that prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi — buoyed by moderate Democrats who flipped to supporting impeachment in recent days — to move ahead.
One: They acknowledge the president discussed the Bidens with the Ukrainian leader. Two: Trump acknowledged Tuesday he held up a $250 million military aid package to Ukraine that had wide bipartisan support on Capitol Hill — but blamed Europe, saying those countries should be paying more to help Kiev defend against Russia. Three: Giuliani has admitted traveling abroad to pressure Ukrainian officials to go after the Bidens.
But Trump insists the weeks-long hold on the military assistance and his desire for Zelenskiy to order a probe of the Bidens were unrelated. “There was no quid pro quo,” he told reporters Tuesday in New York. “There was no pressure applied, nothing.”
Democrats, however, see a much different scenario — a potentially criminal one.
“This is a breach of his constitutional responsibilities,” Pelosi said of Trump’s pressure campaign while announcing the impeachment proceedings, adding that the Trump administration also is violating federal law by withholding information about the intelligence official’s formal complaint.
At first glance, what Pelosi announced — that six Democratic-run committees will continue their separate Trump probes then feed findings to the Judiciary Committee — looks like a mostly rhetorical change. But one panel chairwoman who is close to the speaker indicated that Democrats plan to move quickly.
House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters of California said one change is the six committees will “expedite” their investigations, adding in a television interview: “This president has in so many ways … disrespected the Constitution of the United States. … It will be the work of all six committees.”
From New York, White House officials on Wednesday night signaled major legislation would remain stalled during the inquiry. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement accusing Democrats of “destroying” work on several bills. A source with knowledge of Trump’s plans, however, said he intends to sign a stopgap spending bill needed before Sept. 30 to avert another government shutdown.
The next morning, the president was up early slamming Democrats’ pressing the impeachment button.
“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,” he wrote at 7:24 a.m.. “The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!”
There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have. The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2019
Trump is slated to meet with Zelenskiy at 2:15 p.m. on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session, according to his public schedule released by the White House.