While the memo of a call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ignited a massive backlash from Democrats and spurred calls for impeachment, a report late Wednesday night from the New York Times suggests that there may be even more duplicity to uncover.
The report on the July 25 call showed that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 presidential candidate. Trump’s lawyer, Giuliani, had been carrying on a months-long campaign to push for this probe, as well as another investigation concerning the origins of the Russia investigation.
But the Times report citing anonymous sources revealed that a whistleblower complaint that has been central to exposing the details of the call concerned other allegations in addition to the obvious abuse of power:
…the whistle-blower complaint went beyond Mr. Trump’s comments to Mr. Zelensky. It also dealt in part with the unusual manner in which White House officials handled internal records describing the call. The atypical proceeding heightened internal concerns about the content of the call, the two people said.
No substantial details about the nature of the “handling” of the call were provided.
The memo itself noted: “A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.” It’s not clear how much of the conversation may have been omitted from the final memo. And if there were additional concerns about the handling of documents, it may be that memo is even less reliable than we might have supposed. However, it clearly seems to have been damaging for the president, so it certainly wasn’t thoroughly scrubbed for material that could hurt Trump. It’s possible that even more damaging material may have been excised, though — but whether that has even been alleged is unsure.
A separate report from the Times Wednesday also provided the first details of another phone call Trump had with Zelensky on April 21, when he first won his presidential election in Ukraine. The Times reported:
When Ukraine elected its new leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, on April 21, Mr. Trump seized on the moment as an opportunity to press his case. Within hours of Mr. Zelensky’s victory, Mr. Trump placed a congratulatory call as he was en route from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to Washington.
He urged Mr. Zelensky to coordinate with Mr. Giuliani and to pursue investigations of “corruption,” according to people familiar with the call, the details of which have not previously been reported.
That report also detailed a much longer history of Trump’s obsession with Ukraine and its relationship to the 2016 election interference.