Trump prodded Ukraine leader on Biden claims: memo

Attorney general notified of Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president ‘several weeks’ after call

Trump prodded Ukraine leader on Biden claims: memo

President Donald Trump repeatedly prodded Ukraine’s new leader to work with Rudy Giuliani and the U.S. attorney general to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden, according to a rough transcript summarizing the call released Wednesday.

In the call, Trump raised unsubstantiated allegations that the former vice-president sought to interfere with a Ukrainian prosecutor’s investigation of his son Hunter.

“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,” Trump said to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The conversation between the two leaders is one piece of a whistleblower’s complaint, which followed the July 25 call. The complaint is central to the formal impeachment inquiry launched Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

READ MORE: Pelosi orders impeachment probe: ‘No one is above the law’

The release of the rough transcript set the parameters of the political debate to come, with Trump dismissing it as routine and Democrats saying it laid the ground for an impeachment inquiry.

The connection to Attorney General William Barr marked a new and potentially more serious issue for Trump because it shows he took steps to involve the U.S. government with a foreign country to investigate a political rival.

Trump aides believed that his oblique, message-by-suggestion style of speaking would not lend itself to the discovery of a “smoking gun” in the transcript. His messages to his staff were at the centre of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice in the Trump-Russia case.

One example in the transcript: Trump says to Zelenskiy, “I would like for you to do us a favour though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”

Trump has recently confirmed that he ordered the freezing of nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before the call. The president has insisted he did nothing wrong and has denied that any request for help in procuring damaging information about Biden was tied to the aid freeze.

The president took the 30-minute call from the White House residence, while officials in the Situation Room listened in and worked to keep a record of the conversation, as is standard practice. The resulting memorandum was classified as “Secret’ and “ORCON, for “originator controlled,” to prevent its spread throughout the federal government or to American allies. It was declassified for release on Wednesday.

The release came against the backdrop of the president presiding over a meeting of world leaders at the United Nations, a remarkable split screen even for the turbulence of the Trump era.

The inspector general for the intelligence community wrote to the Director of National Intelligence in August that he believed the conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s leader could have been a federal campaign finance violation because the president could have been soliciting a campaign contribution from a foreign government, a Justice Department official said.

The whistleblower — a member of the intelligence community — said in their complaint that they had heard the information from “White House officials,” but did not have firsthand knowledge of the call, the Justice Department official said.

Prosecutors from the department reviewed a transcript of the call and determined the president did not violate campaign finance law. The determination was made based on the elements of the allegation, and there was no consideration of the department’s policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal investigative deliberations.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the attorney general was first notified of Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president “several weeks after the call took place,” when the department received the referral about potential criminal conduct.

“The president has not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice-President Biden or his son. The president has not asked the attorney general to contact Ukraine — on this or any other matter,” the spokeswoman said.

Lawmakers have been demanding details of the whistleblower’s complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share that information, citing presidential privilege. He is to testify Thursday before the House, and lawmakers are expected to have access to details of the complaint beforehand in a classified setting.

The complaint has set off a stunning turn of American political events, leading Pelosi to yield to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats on the impeachment inquiry.

Congress’ probe focuses partly on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine Biden and help his own re-election. Pelosi said such actions would mark a “betrayal of his oath of office” and declared, “No one is above the law.”

The impeachment inquiry, after months of investigations by House Democrats of the Trump administration, sets up the party’s most direct and consequential confrontation with the Republican president, injects deep uncertainty into the 2020 election campaign and tests anew the nation’s constitutional system of checks and balances.

Trump, who thrives on combat, has all but dared Democrats to take this step, confident that the spectre of impeachment led by the opposition party will bolster rather than diminish his political support.

Meeting with world leaders at the United Nations, he previewed his defence in an all-caps tweet: “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!”

Associated Press Writers Eric Tucker, Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long contributed to this report.

Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Following too closely

Maintaining a buffer in front of your vehicle gives you time to recover from inattention

Sonia Furstenau
Sonia Furstenau column: MLA vows to keep up the fight

COVID-19 continues to strain our communities

Heating cable laid in the cold frame, awaiting the layer of sand. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Greenhouse growing in the winter

I have a heating cable I’ve never used that I’m contemplating putting to work in the cold frame

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: If you don’t have anything nice to say…

Dear Sarah, the letter began. I hope you mail a note from… Continue reading

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read