White House releases rough transcript of early Trump-Ukraine call minutes before impeachment hearing

The White House on Friday released a transcript of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer employees critique EPA under Trump in new report Fired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Virginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests MORE’s first phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

The release came moments before former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchJim Jordan requests documents from Pompeo regarding Hunter Biden, Burisma  Trump taps new ambassador to Ukraine America's diplomats deserve our respect MORE testified publicly in the House impeachment inquiry about efforts by Trump allies to oust her from her position.

The 16-minute call is largely congratulatory and genial, as it took place on April 21, the day Zelensky won his election. The Ukrainian president invites Trump to attend his inauguration, while Trump raises the possibility of a White House visit for Zelensky.

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“When you’re settled and ready, I’d like to invite you to the White House,” Trump tells Zelensky. “We’ll have lots of things to talk about, but we’re with you all the way.”

“Well, thank you for the invitation. We accept the invitation and look forward to the visit,” Zelensky replies. Trump then tells him that’s “very good.” 

“We’ll let you know very soon, and we will see you very soon, regardless,” Trump says. 

Current and former administration officials have testified that they believe a White House visit for Zelensky ultimately became contingent on Ukraine pursuing investigations that Trump wanted into his political rivals. 

Trump did not attend Zelensky’s inauguration, nor did Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence threatens to deploy military if Pennsylvania governor doesn't quell looting Pence on Floyd: 'No tolerance for racism' in US Pence chief of staff owns stock affected by boss's coronavirus work: report MORE; the administration sent a delegation to the inauguration on May 20 that included Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Ernest Moniz Trump issues executive order to protect power grid from attack Why we need to transition, quickly, from fossil fuels to clean energy MORE, then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandTop Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans are prioritizing big chains in coronavirus relief  MORE, and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate passes bill to give flexibility for small business coronavirus aid program On The Money: GOP turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks | Millions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks | Senate votes to give coronavirus relief program more flexibility GOP senator blocks bill giving flexibility to small-business loans but says deal near MORE (R-Wis.).  

Zelensky still has not visited the White House.

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The White House memo is not a verbatim transcript of the phone call. It is based on the notes of national security council aides who listened in on the conversation. Under normal practice, calls with foreign leaders are not recorded and transcripts are produced afterwards by putting together notes taken on the call, according to former officials. 

The president and his allies are likely to view the call released Friday as favorable to his case. Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald Nunes Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (R-Calif.) read aloud from the readout of the call in his opening statement at Yovanovitch’s testimony.

A White House readout at the time of the call said Trump expressed to Zelensky his commitment to working on reforms that "strengthen democracy" and "root out corruption" in Ukraine.

But in the memo released Friday, there is no talk of corruption and little talk of politics as the two leaders exchange compliments and congratulations.

“That was an incredible election,” Trump tells Zelensky. “Again, thank you so very much. As you can see, we tried very hard to do our best. We had you as a great example.”

“I think you will do a great job. I have many friends from Ukraine and they think — frankly — expected you to win. And it’s a really amazing thing that you’ve done.” 

Trump boasts about the economy and compares himself to Zelensky, saying “in a way, I did something similar.”  

“I’d also like to invite you, if it’s possible, to the inauguration. I know how busy you are, but if it’s possible for you to come to the inauguration ceremony, that would be a great, great thing for you to be with us on that day,” Zelensky says. 

“Well, that’s very nice. I’ll look into that,” Trump replies. “Give us the date and, at a very minimum, we’ll have a great representative.” 

Trump has teased over the course of the last week that he would release a transcript of the April phone call, which came before the now-infamous July 25 conversation between the two leaders that is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry in the House. 

The president is likely to use the call as a talking point moving forward to both boast about its contents and his willingness to be transparent, even as the White House stonewalls requests for witnesses and documents in the House impeachment inquiry.

“The President took 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," White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamPence names new press secretary McEnany: Prayer 'made a lot of difference' in 2016 election McEnany stamps her brand on White House press operation MORE said in a statement Friday morning.

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The April conversation is notably different from the July 25 call, when Trump urged Zelensky to “look into” the Bidens and “do us a favor though” by investigating a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee server. 

Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry who raised concerns to his superiors about the July 25 call, told lawmakers in a closed-door hearing last month that he felt the April conversation with Zelensky "was actually a very good call."

"Everybody was happy, high-fiving from that call because we were moving in the right direction for Ukraine," Vindman said, according to a transcript of his testimony to House lawmakers.

Vindman is one of several witnesses slated to testify in public next week as part of the House impeachment inquiry.

House Democrats are investigating whether Trump abused the power of his office to press for investigations that would benefit him politically. In particular, they are investigating whether Trump sought to use military assistance to Ukraine and the White House meeting as a cudgel to press for the investigations that his personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiRudy Giuliani calls on Cuomo to remove Bill de Blasio Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Moussaoui says he now renounces terrorism, bin Laden MORE was pressing for. 

Trump has defended his July 25 call with Zelensky, calling it “perfect” and accusing Democrats of a partisan “witch hunt.” He has also insisted there was no quid pro quo in his interactions with Ukraine.

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Here's a copy of what the White House released on Friday:

First Conversation Had Between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine








 

 

Updated at 10:05 a.m.