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 TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE’s first phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

The release came moments before former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchCitizens United put out a welcome mat for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't Giuliani: 'I'd love to be a witness' at Senate impeachment trial 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 attends sermon where bishop says 'demonic spirit' is behind homosexual attraction Mike Pence invoked a racist president and a scoundrel senator to defend Trump — did he even know it? Trump, Pence visit MLK memorial MORE; the administration sent a delegation to the inauguration on May 20 that included Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerrySunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Overnight Energy: Appeals court tosses kids' climate suit | California sues Trump over fracking | Oversight finds EPA appointees slow-walked ethics obligations MORE, then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid GOP chairmen seek interview with Obama officials as part of Biden-Ukraine probe Push to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war MORE, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandSenate rejects subpoenaing Mulvaney to testify in impeachment trial The Memo: Day One shows conflicting narratives on impeachment GOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid MORE, and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBiden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Trump lawyers urge senators to swiftly acquit Trump in impeachment trial Hillicon Valley: Barr asks Apple to unlock Pensacola shooter's phone | Tech industry rallies behind Google in Supreme Court fight | Congress struggles to set rules for cyber warfare with Iran | Blog site Boing Boing hacked 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 NunesDemocratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' House Democrats release second batch of Parnas materials Democratic lawmaker says Nunes threatened to sue him over criticism 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 GrishamTrump's split-screen presidency takes stark form in impeachment Trump boasts of US economic gains in Davos as impeachment trial gets underway Parnas attorney asks William Barr to recuse himself from investigation 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 GiulianiSenate rejects subpoenaing Mulvaney to testify in impeachment trial GOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid Citizens United put out a welcome mat for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman 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.