POLITICS

Trump's First Ukraine Call Contradicts White House Claims About Rooting Out Corruption

The April 21 conversation, which precedes the July 25 call that is the subject of the impeachment inquiry, included no mentions of corruption or Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump apparently wasn’t concerned enough about corruption in Ukraine to mention it on a call with the country’s newly elected leader in April of this year, according to a summary of their conversation released on Friday.

The newly released memorandum of the call contradicts the official White House readout released to the press at the time, which said that Trump urged Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian people to “to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.”

The April 21 conversation was instead short and mostly congratulatory; Zelensky said he was grateful for the call and accepted Trump’s invitation to visit the White House. It is strikingly different from the following July 25 call between the two leaders that has become the focus of the House impeachment inquiry, in which Trump repeatedly brought up the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden, his political rival.

“I think you will do a great job. I have many friends in Ukraine who know you and like you,” Trump told Zelensky on the April call.

There was no mention of eliminating corruption in Ukraine in their conversation, even though Trump and his allies have frequently cited the president’s supposed concern about corruption as one of the reasons he held up military aid to the country.

Trump did, however, tout his former ownership of the international Miss Universe beauty pageant.

“When I owned Miss Universe, they always had great people. Ukraine was always very well represented,” he told Zelensky.

The April 21 conversation took place shortly before Biden announced his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on April 25. 

The first call was marked unclassified by the White House. The second call, however, was marked classified and, in an unusual move, its summary transcript was moved to a highly classified server with restricted access.

During the second public impeachment hearing on Friday, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, read the entire summary of the April 21 call during his opening remarks. Trump also shared a copy of the summary with a group of Republican senators at the White House on Thursday.

“Nothing in there very interesting,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said after the meeting.

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