Trump releases Ukraine call transcript amid claims he is trying to distract from impeachment testimony

Earlier call makes no mention of fighting corruption despite White House telling reporters it did

Andrew Buncombe
Friday 15 November 2019 10:18
Former Russia diplomat: 'Putin has transcript' of Trump's Ukraine call

The White House has released the transcript of the president’s first phone call with Ukraine’s leader – a move many will see as an attempt to distract from testimony from a second impeachment witness.

Even before Adam Schiff, chair of the House intelligence committee was able to open the session on Capitol Hill, the White House released what it said was a transcript of a conversation Donald Trump had with Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, before the controversial July 25 phone call.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, Mr Trump had taken the “the unprecedented steps to declassify and release the transcripts of both of his phone calls with president Zelensky so that every American can see he did nothing wrong”, even though administrations often release details of conversations.

Unlike Mr Trump’s phone July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the transcript of the earlier call, which ranking Republican congressman Devin Nunes read aloud, contained no mention of Joe Biden or his son.

Rather, the 16-minute conversation rather focusses on Mr Zelensky recently electoral victory.

“I have many friends in Ukraine who know you and like you,” Mr Trump tells Mr Zelensky in the call, according to the transcript, in truth a memo based on notes written by national security council staff. “We’ll have a lot of things to talk about, but we’re with you all the way.”

He also mentions onetime ownership of the Miss Universe franchise. “Ukraine was always very well represented,” he added

Yet, neither did the phone conversation contain any reference to fighting corruption, as the later conversation did, albeit that second call raised the issue in regard to Joe Biden and his son.

“This seems notable. There’s no mention of combatting corruption in the first transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky, despite the White House telling reporters in an April readout that rooting out corruption was discussed,” tweeted CNN’s White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. “I’ve asked the White House to explain the discrepancy.”

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The phone call concluded with Mr Trump saying would like to invite Mr Zelensky to the White House.

“Well, thank you for the invitation. We accept the invitation and look forward to the visit,” Mr Zelensky replied.

Diplomats have testified that the state visit and the release of military aide was dependent on Kiev announcing a probe into the Bidens. Republicans have long alleged the former vice president improperly used his position to fire a prosecutor who represented a threat to his son, something for which there is no evidence,

Democrats launched their impeachment probe after a whistleblower claimed Mr Trump had improperly sought a “quid pro quo” from Mr Zelensky in his July 25 phone call. Mr Trump has denied any wrong doing and described events as a “witch hunt”.

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