President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a potential 2020 political rival, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, during a July 25 phone call, according to a transcript of the conversation released by the White House.
Trump also asked the Ukrainian leader to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and US Attorney General William Barr on the issue, the call transcript reveals.
“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. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me,” Trump says, according to the document.
The release of the transcript showing Trump repeatedly pressed the Ukrainian leader to investigate a political rival comes a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared the President had betrayed his oath of office and announced she is opening a formal impeachment inquiry.
Trump on Wednesday denied any wrongdoing, saying there was “no pressure whatsoever” in his phone call with Zelensky.
At an afternoon news conference in New York, the President added: “I didn’t do it. There was no quid pro quo.”
The rough transcript, which a senior White House official said was developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with note takers and experts listening, will likely amplify the Democratic impeachment effort.
“The fact is that the President of the United States, in breach of his constitutional responsibilities, has asked a foreign government to help him in his political campaign at the expense of our national security, as well as undermining the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said after the transcript was released Wednesday. “That cannot stand. He will be held accountable. No one is above the law.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters Wednesday that the President’s message to the Ukrainian President was clear, despite some debate over whether there was quid pro quo.
“There is no quid pro quo necessary to betray your country or your oath of office. Even though many read this as a quid pro quo. I’m not concerned whether it is a quid pro quo or not. Ukraine understood what this President wanted,” the California Democrat said.
The July 25 call, which took place one day after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about Russian interference in US elections, was also part of a whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, a source familiar with the situation previously told CNN, a revelation that has only raised more questions in the ongoing controversy.
During the call, Trump suggested four times that Barr will call Zelensky and repeatedly mentions Giuliani, the Trump ally and former New York City mayor.
Giuliani has long lobbied Ukraine to investigate Biden’s call in 2016 to remove the country’s top prosecutor, who at one point had been investigating a Ukrainian natural gas company connected to Hunter Biden.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
On the call, Zelensky agreed to the President’s request.
“Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate,” the Ukrainian president said. He later added: “He or she will look into the situation specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case.”
Wednesday, the Ukranian leader said he did not feel pressured.
“Nobody pushed me,” Zelensky said in a joint appearance with Trump.
Trump said Wednesday evening that he’s willing to release a transcript of another call with the Ukrainian president.
“I’ll release that, too, if that’s important to you,” Trump said of a call which preceded the one the public learned more about Wednesday through a newly released transcript. “I spoke to him previous to the call that we released.”
He reiterated that it was a “very innocent” call.
’I would like you to do us a favor’
Prior to mentioning Biden, Trump criticized Mueller’s testimony from the day prior and raised the possibility of looking into the US cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which has been retained by Democrats and Republicans in recent years.
After getting hacked in 2016, the Democratic National Committee hired CrowdStrike to investigate the attacks. CrowdStrike publicly blamed the Russian government, which was later confirmed by Mueller’s investigation.
Then, Zelensky mentioned that Ukraine is ready to buy more Javelin missiles from the US, prompting Trump’s reply, “I would like you to do us a favor.”