Read the record of Trump’s controversial call to Ukraine’s president Zelensky

The call that broke the Democratic camel’s back.
The call that broke the Democratic camel’s back.
Image: Reuters
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

A record of the call that prompted Democrats yesterday to announce an investigation to impeach US president Donald Trump has been released. The exchange between Trump and Ukraine’s president Vlodymyr Zelensky, in which the American leader asks the Ukrainian leader to investigate political rival Joe Biden, prompted speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to announce that the House will initiate an investigation with an eye to impeachment.

Today, the White House released its record of the call, surely hoping to stem the tide of calls for impeachment. But the record is damning.

It is not a verbatim transcript, but a compilation of notes taken by officers on duty in the Situation Room, as well as intelligence officials. However, it does clearly indicate that Trump urged Zelensky to investigate the role former vice president Biden allegedly played in quelling an investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, a former member of the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, and the company’s activities. Joe Biden is now a 2020 presidential candidate, seeking to challenge Trump in the general election.

The Bidens, father and son, have both denied any wrongdoing, yet the transcript does show an American president attempting to use his influence with a foreign leader to harm a political rival. The call includes friendly chit-chat between the two presidents, who both made their names in television—Zelensky even used a Trump line about “draining the swamp.” Then the former reality TV star from the US told the actor-turned politician from the Ukraine, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, to look into an investigation of Burisma:

I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved…. 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 do with the Attorney General would great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…it sounds horrible to me. 

Trump also asked Zelensky to speak to his personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and US attorney general William Barr about the matter, and Zelensky promised that a new prosecutor would look into the situation. According to the memo, Trump used the language “I would like you to do us a favor” and “it’s very important,” both of which indicate pressure on the Ukrainian president.

“The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on investigation of the case,” Zelensky said.

The call was the subject of a whistleblower complaint by an intelligence agent, which was not reported to Congress and has prompted House Democrats to move to impeach Trump. This comes after months of waffling following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Today, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, speaking to senators, condemned Democrats in Congress, saying, “Speaker Pelosi couldn’t hold back the far left any longer… Before she had any of the facts in hand, she caved to the left and announced an impeachment inquiry. Republicans support proper procedures for considering this whistleblower report. In the meantime, while our friends across the Capitol rush to judgment and dive deeper into their nearly three-year old impeachment addiction, we will stay focused on the American people’s business.”