Trump has repeatedly insisted the memorandum of his conversation would prove he did 'nothing wrong.'
The White House on Wednesday released what Donald Trump has described as a "transcript" of a July 25 telephone call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Though Trump has repeatedly claimed it would prove his "perfect call" was totally above board, it in fact shows he likely violated federal law.
The "transcript" is a memorandum of Trump's call with Zelensky, and is "not a verbatim transcript of a discussion" according to the document. It lays out, in detail, Trump's request that Zelensky do him a "favor" and investigate one of his 2020 rivals, former Vice President Joe 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, according to the memo.
Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have insisted that Biden worked in 2016 to remove Ukraine's general prosecutor from a corruption probe into a Ukrainian energy company for which Biden's son Hunter was a board member, though there is no evidence to support this.
Democrats have called the memo a clear violation of the law. Trump, however, has insisted repeatedly that the memo contains zero damning evidence.
"Another Fake News story out there - It never ends!" he tweeted last week, prior to the memo's release. He suggested that no one was "dumb enough to believe" he would "say something inappropriate with a foreign leader," and claimed that he would "only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!"
....Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially “heavily populated” call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2019
Trump later shifted his story, admitting that he had asked Ukraine to investigate corruption, but promising that a transcript of his call with Zelensky would absolve him completely.
On Tuesday, he even attempted to raise campaign funds off of the controversy, promising that he would release the transcript to the public, insisting it would back up his denials.
"I'VE DONE NOTHING WRONG. TRUST ME, YOU'LL SEE THE TRANSCRIPT," his campaign wrote in a fundraising email sent to supporters that day.
“I’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG. TRUST ME, YOU’LL SEE THE TRANSCRIPT.” pic.twitter.com/NblZfUxAG2
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) September 24, 2019
The "memorandum of telephone conversation" declassified and released by Trump on Wednesday shows precisely the opposite.
In the memo, Trump first brought up the United States' support of the Ukraine and then immediately pivoted to a demand for a "favor" of investigating Biden.
"I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. 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," he told Zelensky (whose name is oddly spelled Zelenskyy throughout the document). "So I think it's something you want to look at but 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."
Immediately after his Ukrainian counterpart agreed and thanked the United States for its support, Trump pivoted to his demands.
"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," he asks, referencing a firm hired to investigate the 2016 Democratic National Committee hack by Russian operatives working to support his campaign.
"I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you too get to the bottom of it," Trump asked, adding, "As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. It's very important that you do it if that's possible."
Trump then turned to aforementioned, totally unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about Biden and his son Hunter. "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me," he added.
As Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub has repeatedly noted, federal law explicitly prohibits soliciting, accepting, or receiving anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.
Despite this clear smoking gun, Trump continued to try to claim on Wednesday morning that it was a "nothing call."
"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!" he tweeted.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.