BREAKING NEWS: Transcript of FIRST call between Donald Trump and Ukrainian leader shows president offering him White House visit with no strings attached—and no mention of Biden probe or military aid money
- White House releases transcript of first call between Trump and newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky, in April
- Undercuts Democrats’ arguments in impeachment inquiry
- Democrats say Trump tried to bribe Zelensky with a public White House visit and a release of military aid money in exchange for probing Joe Biden
- Transcript shows that Trump offered the visit with no strings attached and Zelensky immediately accepted it; there was no mention of the military support
- Stands in contrast with later call in July, which Democrats see as a thinly coded proposal of a quid-pro-quo
The White House on Friday released a transcript of the first phone call between the American and Ukrainian presidents, undercutting Democrats’ claims that Donald Trump tried to bribe his counterpart in Kiev with military aid money and a White House visit in exchange for a politically motivated corruption probe of Joe Biden.
Flying aboard Air Force One on April 21 between West Palm Beach and Washington, Trump offered Volodymyr Zelensky the high profile visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that the newly elected leader craved, without suggesting strings were attached.
Biden’s name didn’t come up.
‘When you’re settled in and ready, I’d like to invite you to the White House. We’ll have a lot of things to talk about, but we’re with you all the way,’ Trump told him, according to the transcript.
SCROLL DOWN TO READ THE WHITE HOUSE’S TRANSCRIPT
President Donald Trump stole some thunder from an impeachment process targeting him on Friday, releasing an innocuous-reading transcript of his first phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Trump met one-on-one with Zelensky at the InterContinental New York Barclay on the sidelines of the UNited Nations General Assembly on September 25; the White House hasn’t released information about the content of their private discussions
‘Well, thank you for the invitation,’ Zelensky replied. ‘We accept the invitation and look forward to the visit. Thank you again. The whole team and I are looking forward to that visit.’
Zelensky also invited Trump to attend his inauguration. Energy Secretary Rick Perry went in Trump’s stead, along with special envoy Kurt Volker, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, national security aide Alexander Vindman and acting chief of mission Joseph Pennington.
Everyone in that delegation has figured in some way in House Democrats’ impeachment push targeting Trump.
A White House official said Friday morning that the call shows ‘POTUS wasn’t targeting Biden politically. If that were the idea he would’ve started in April, not July.’
Trump’s second call with Zelensky, a longer July 25 conversation, has become the centerpiece of Democrats’ argument that Trump is unfit for office, based on a cryptic mention of a ‘favor’ that the U.S. president wanted from him and a mention of Biden.
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, read the 16-minute transcript aloud in a House impeachment inquiry hearing just minutes after the White House emailed it to reporters.
Democratic chairman Adam Schiff was unimpressed.
‘I’m grateful the president has released the call record. I would now ask ask the president to release the thousands of other records that he has instructed the State Department not to release,’ he said.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that Trump ‘will be watching Congressman Nunes’ opening statement,’ but that ‘the rest of the day he will be working hard for the American people.’
The document the White House released is ‘not a verbatim transcript of a discussion,’ it says in a footnote.
Calls between U.S. presidents and world leaders are typically not recorded and transcribed in the West Wing. Instead a variety of experts from the White House, the State Department and various intelligence agencies take notes as they listen in, and then assemble a memorandum, taking note of any portions that are unintelligibe on the phone line.