Read Trump’s phone conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky
Updated 0841 GMT (1641 HKT) September 26, 2019
President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed for Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, during a July 25 phone call, according to a transcript of the conversation released by the White House.
Read the transcript here:
Declassified by order of the President
September 24, 2019
MEMORANDUM OF TELEPHONE CONVERSATION
SUBJECT: Telephone Conversation with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine
Participants: President Zelenskyy of Ukraine
Notetakers: The White House Situation Room
Date, Time July 25, 2019, 9:03-9:33 am EDT
and Place: Residence
The President: Congratulations on a great victory. We all watched from the United States and you did a terrific job. The way you came from behind, somebody who wasn’t given much of a chance, and you ended up winning easily. It’s a fantastic achievement. Congratulations.
President Zelenskyy: You are absolutely right Mr. President. We did win big and we worked hard for this. We worked a lot but I would like to confess to you that I had an opportunity to learn from you. We used quite a few of your skills and knowledge and were able to use it as an example for our elections and yes it is true that these were unique elections. We were in a unique situation that we were able to achieve a unique success. I’m able to tell you the following; the first time you called me to congratulate me when I won my presidential election, and the second time you are now calling me when my party won the parliamentary election. I think I should run more often so you can call me more often and we can talk over the phone more often.
The President: (laughter) That’s a very good idea. I think your country is very happy about that.
President Zelenskyy: Well yes, to tell you the truth, we are trying to work hard because we wanted to drain the swamp here in our country. We brought in many many new people. Not the old politicians, not the typical politicians, because we want to have a new format and a new type of government. You are a great teacher for us and in that.
The President: Well it is very nice of you to say that. 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. Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think it’s something that you should really ask them about. When I was speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she ·doesn’t do anything. A lot of the European countries are the same way 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.
President Zelenskyy: Yes you are absolutely right. Not only 100%, but actually 1000% and I can tell you the following; I did talk to Angela Merkel and I did meet with her I also met and talked with Macron and I told them that they are not doing quite as much as they need to be doing on the issues with the sanctions. They are not enforcing the sanctions. They are not working as much as they should work for Ukraine. It turns out that even though logically, the European Union should be our biggest partner but technically the United States is a much bigger partner than the European Union and I’m very grateful to you for that because the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine. Much more than the European Union especially when we are talking about sanctions against the Russian Federation. I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.
The President: 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… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. 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. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.
President Zelenskyy: Yes it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. For that purpose, I just recalled our ambassador from United States and he will be replaced by a very competent and very experienced ambassador who will work hard on making sure that our two nations are getting closer. I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and have personal relations with you so we can cooperate even more so. I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us. I will make sure that I surround myself with the best and most experienced people. I also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly.. That I can assure you.
For the rest:
The Trump-Zelensky Phone Call: Key Takeaways From Two New Documents
A reconstructed transcript showed President Trump pressing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, and a Justice Department memo added new details about a whistle-blower’s concerns.
Published Sept. 25, 2019Updated Sept. 26, 2019
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Wednesday released a reconstructed transcript of President Trump’s 30-minute conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on July 25 that was at least in part the focus of a disputed whistle-blower complaint.
Separately, the Justice Department released a revised version of a memo by its Office of Legal Counsel that declared that it was lawful to withhold that complaint from Congress, notwithstanding an inspector general’s determination that the complaint was credible and raised an “urgent concern” of the sort that a statute says must be shown to lawmakers.
Both documents should be treated with caution. A footnote in the five-page reconstructed transcript says it is not verbatim, and its text contains ellipses.
Similarly, a footnote in the Office of Legal Counsel memo says it is a rewritten version and that “we have changed the prior version to avoid references to certain details that remain classified.” Notably, the revised memo talks only about a single phone call, but the inspector general told Congress the whistle-blower’s complaint concerned more than one action.
1. Trump asked for an investigation into the Bidens.
The President: “The other thing. 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.”
In this passage of the reconstructed call transcript, Mr. Trump pushed the new Ukrainian president to get his country’s prosecutor to open an investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his younger son, Hunter Biden. In May, Ukraine’s top prosecutor had said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens to investigate.
2. Trump alluded to American aid, while not explicitly linking his request to unfreezing it, the document shows.
The President: “I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time.”
At the time of this call, Mr. Trump was holding back hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine that Congress had appropriated to help that country fend off Russian aggression. The reconstructed transcript does not directly refer to Mr. Trump’s freezing of the aid or whether he would unfreeze it. However, it says Mr. Trump referred to large-scale American assistance to Ukraine in the above passage, and several sentences later, Mr. Trump added:
The President: … “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.”
The next thing Mr. Trump did — after Mr. Zelensky responded to this statement by thanking Mr. Trump for his support “in the area of defense” and saying Ukraine was “ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps,” such as by buying American missiles — was to ask for investigations as a “favor.”
3. Zelensky agreed to pursue an inquiry into the Bidens.
President Zelensky: “Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. 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 we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. 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.”
In May, Ukraine’s top prosecutor at the time had said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens for him to investigate. In this passage, Mr. Zelensky promises to do what Mr. Trump is asking — launch an investigation into the Bidens — but also asks Mr. Trump if he can provide any information for Ukrainian investigators to look at.
In the summary, Zelensky asks Trump for an increase in military aid — specifically, to purchase more Javelin anti-tank missiles, useful in Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists in its east.
Trump responds by saying, “I would like you to do us a favor though.”
The favor turns out to be about two investigations Trump would like Ukraine to conduct: one about a bizarre and unfounded theory about Ukrainian possession of a Democratic email server, the other about the Biden family’s allegedly corrupt dealings with a Ukrainian prosecutor.
We previously knew that the president had asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens because both the president and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitted it. We now know that he also asked Ukraine to investigate the Democratic Party and that he connected it to the question of military aid in their conversation.
The biggest takeaway from the summary: it sure looks like a quid pro quo
It’s important to note, at the outset, that this call summary is not quite a verbatim transcript of what Trump and Zelensky said. It’s written like a transcript, with direct quotations assigned to each leader, but it is not an authoritative transcription of an audio recording — as a note on the first page makes clear.
“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,” it explains. “A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation.”
So there are likely some errors and omissions, and there is at least one pretty notable unclarity in the document I’ll point out later on. But it’s worth treating the parts that are written down as, for now, roughly accurate quotations of both Trump and Zelensky.
The context for the call is important too. According to a Washington Post report, a week before phoning Zelensky, who had just assumed office, Trump ordered chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to suspend $400 million worth of US military aid to Ukraine (the aid was unlocked in September). So you have a new leader of a country locked in conflict with much more powerful Russia speaking to one of its principal international benefactors, which has recently suspended military aid.
After a few pleasantries early in the call, Trump brings up this military aid unprompted. He goes out of his way to compare US assistance to EU aid to Ukraine. “I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time,” he tells Zelensky. “Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are.”
Zelensky agrees, telling Trump “the United States is a much bigger partner than the European Union and I’m very grateful to you for that.” This is true, at least when it comes to military aid — which means Trump really does have leverage here.
The Ukrainian leader then makes a request for the US to increase its military assistance, specifically by selling his country more Javelin anti-tank missiles. This is the pivot point in the summary, so I’m going to quote it in context:
ZELENSKY: I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We. are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically, we are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United· States for defense purposes.
TRUMP: 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 weal thy people. … The server, they say Ukraine has it.
The word “though” in Trump’s line makes it clear what’s going on here, explicitly connecting the request for aid to Trump’s request for “a favor” after Trump initiated a conversation about how important US aid is for Ukraine. And that favor is investigating “the server.”