President Trump did not press Ukraine’s president for an investigation of Democratic front-runner Joseph R. Biden and his son in return for a promise of military aid, according to a transcript of their July phone call released Wednesday by the Justice Department.
In the July 25 call, Mr. Trump did raise the Bidens with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, the transcript shows. It involved the question of whether Mr. Biden had pressured Ukraine to stop an investigation in 2016 of a Ukrainian gas company that paid Hunter Biden $3 million.
“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 can do with the Attorney General [William P. Barr] would be great,” Mr. Trump said on the call. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
Mr. Zelensky responded that the country’s new prosecutor would be loyal to him. “He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue,” he pledged to Mr. Trump.
They also talked about the U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike and the controversy over the Democratic National Committee servers hacked in 2016.
But there is no “quid pro quo” evident in the written account of the phone conversation.
House Democrats announced a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday based on their suspicions that Mr. Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian leader into investigating the Bidens by withholding $391 million in military aid last summer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Mr. Trump had committed a “betrayal” of the Constitution.
DOCUMENT: Transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian president
The president and his team say Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, should be investigated for receiving $3 million from a Ukrainian energy company while his father was serving as vice president.
But the transcript, compiled from notes taken by White House aides during the phone call, shows that Mr. Trump did not link the military aid to any promise from Ukraine for an investigation of his main Democratic rival.
While there’s no overt link to U.S. military aid, Mr. Trump does ask Mr. Zelensky for a “favor” immediately after reminding the Ukrainian leader that the U.S. has spent “a lot of effort and a lot of time” on Ukraine.
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” Mr. Trump said on the call. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The [DNC] server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on the whole situation … I would like to have the Attorney General [Mr. Barr] call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”
CrowdStrike was hired by the DNC initially to examine its servers in the Russian hacking affair. The DNC never turned over the servers to the FBI.
The president also mentions the just-completed investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller over unfounded allegations of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Mr. Trump and his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, believe the so-called “witch hunt” investigation had its origins in Ukraine.
“They say a lot of it started with Ukraine,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Zelensky. “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
Mr. Trump said the U.S. is helping Ukraine “much more than the European countries are doing, and they should be helping you more than they are.”
“Germany does almost nothing for you,” Mr. Trump said. “The United States has been very, very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good, but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”
Mr. Zelensky replied, “You are absolutely right. I’m very grateful to you for that because the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine. Much more than the European Union especially, when we are talking about sanctions against the Russian Federation.”
Democrats said the transcript shows the president’s actions were worse than they expected. Republicans said it proves the president did nothing wrong.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said “I don’t mind” that Mr. Trump raised the Bidens during the call.
“I think it’s very appropriate for the president of the United States to suggest [to Ukraine] that you’ve got a corruption problem,” Mr. Graham told reporters. “Did the president of the United States suggest to the Ukraine, ‘I will withhold money unless you go after my political rival’? The answer is absolutely not. That’s why I wanted the phone call to be released.”
Mr. Graham said Mr. Biden’s son “was receiving money from the Ukraine, was on the board of a company that was the subject of an investigation.”
“If you don’t see that conflict, you’re blind,” he said.
Mr. Trump said Wednesday the transcript would show that Democrats owe him an apology for rushing to an impeachment inquiry without the facts.
“Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President?” The president tweeted. “They should, a perfect call - got them by surprise!”
Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet with Mr. Zelensky later Wednesday at the United Nations in New York.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the transcript shows “the president has done nothing wrong here.”
“There is no quid pro quo and there is no pressure,” Mr. Gidley said on Fox News. “As the president has said, it was pitch-perfect. The Democrats are already calling for impeachment when they didn’t have the facts in the first place. Evidence doesn’t matter to Democrats at all.”