As promised, the White House released the transcript of a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The document is a memorandum of the conversation and not a verbatim account, and includes a cautionary note warning that it was drawn from the notes and memories of officials in the Situation Room which “can affect the accuracy of the record.” Nevertheless, it "confirms some of our worst expectations," according to Greg Sargent of The Washington Post.
As a previous Washington Post report points out, Trump told Zelensky to partner with the U.S. Attorney General to investigate alleged misconduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in exchange for an invite to the White House. "Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law," the Washington Post reported, adding that "prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials."
But according to Sargent, a crime doesn't need to be committed for impeachment to happen, and new details about the call are "very damning."
Crucially, the call details show Trump explicitly pressing Zelensky to talk to Giuliani and Barr about Trump’s desire to see Ukraine investigate Biden, his most likely general-election opponent.
“If you could speak to [Giuliani], that would be great,” Trump tells Zelensky, before saying that “a lot of people” want to find out about the situation involving Joe Biden and the Ukraine, and asking Zelensky to “look into it.”
That’s a reference to the convoluted fabrication that Trump, Giuliani and right-wing media have pushed involving Biden, his most likely general-election opponent, and his son. For the details, see Glenn Kessler’s latest look at this narrative, which shows that it has only further imploded over time.
While Trump didn't threaten to withhold military aid to Ukraine during the call, he had already suspended the aid and some think he was using that as leverage.
"Whether Zelensky drew a connection between those things, it is now confirmed that Trump directly pressed a foreign power to interfere in a U.S. election on his behalf. This means the extraordinarily serious misconduct that is being examined as part of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry has now been established," Sargent wrote.
The revelations also highlight the role of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who raised national security officials' concerns that someone who was not an administration official was involved so directly in enlisting Zelensky to investigate Biden. It was reportedly Giuliani's involvement that pushed the whistleblower to bring his/her concerns to Congress. There are also other matters the whistleblower raised that haven't been revealed to the public. According to Sargent, Trump's conversation with Zelensky confirms that he was directing Giuliani throughout the ordeal.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr