The White House released a summary of President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) call for a formal impeachment probe on Tuesday. The probe will investigate whether the president urged a foreign power to investigate his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
While the president may think releasing the summary exonerates him from wrongdoing, the text tells a more troubling story. Here are some key takeaways from the record of the July conversation:
1. It’s not a transcript, just a summary
Trump said Tuesday on Twitter that he would release “the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript.” But that doesn’t appear to be the case. The five-page document detailing the president’s conversation with Zelensky is a summary, not a verbatim transcript. As the document points out:
The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty Officers and NSC policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation. The word “inaudible” is used to indicate portions of a conversation that the notetaker was unable to hear.
And ellipses, which signal missing words or a lapse in conversation, are featured at times in the record of the call. So while the document sheds light on Trump’s call, it’s not clear whether it’s representative of what the full 30-minute conversation between the two world leaders entailed.
2. Trump wanted dirt on the DNC hack and Joe Biden
Calls for Trump’s impeachment intensified after news reports late last week revealed a White House whistleblower had information showing the president asked a foreign government to dig up dirt on his political opponents. The summary of the call suggests that’s exactly what Trump did.
“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,” Trump told Zelensky on the call. “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.”
Crowdstrike is the name of the cybersecurity firm that was hired to investigate the hack of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
In the call, Trump also asked Zelensky to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential contender Biden.
“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, referring to a Ukrainian investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings while he was serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. The prosecutor found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me,” Trump said.
Zelensky appeared eager to help.
“The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case,” Zelensky said. “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 to make sure that we administer justice in our country.”
3. Trump suggested using his personal lawyer as a mediator
Trump hoped to recruit his personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as a mediator between the U.S. and Ukraine, the call summary shows. In the process, he also disparaged a former U.S. ambassador, saying:
Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news I just want to let you know that.
Giuliani has not been a particularly smart ally for Trump. Last week, he appeared on CNN to defend his client, but ended up having a meltdown and repeatedly contradicted himself instead.
4. Trump brought up aid the U.S. gives to Ukraine
Several House committees have started looking into whether Trump delayed more than $250 million in aid to Ukraine while waiting to hear whether Zelensky was willing to investigate the Bidens.
The call record shows Trump mentioned what the U.S. does for Ukraine just moments before he asked for dirt on his rivals. And in the process, Trump also disparaged American allies.
“I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine,” Trump said in the call. “We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think it’s something that you should really ask them about.”
He added that “the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.”
5. Zelensky wanted Trump to know he stayed in Trump Tower
Though certainly not the most damning bit of information to come from the call summary, Zelensky continued to flatter Trump throughout the phone call. And reminding the president that you’ve spent money to enrich his personal business is a layup to getting on Trump’s good side.
“I would like to tell you that I also have quite a few Ukrainian friends that live in the United States,” Zelensky said. “Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower.”
The Constitution’s emoluments clauses prohibit presidents from profiting from their office. But that appears to be the least of Trump’s troubles.
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