Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, transcript shows

Posted at 9:13 AM, Sep 25, 2019

President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed for Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, during a July 25 phone call, according to a transcript of the conversation released by the White House.

Trump also asked the Ukrainian leader to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and US Attorney General William Barr on the issue, the non-verbatim transcript of the call reveals.

"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 would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me," Trump says, according to the document.

Zelensky agreed to the request.

"Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate," the Ukrainian president said. He later added: "He or she will look into the situation specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. 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 the investigation of the case."

The transcript will likely amplify the Democratic impeachment effort. On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into the President, a dramatic and historic step as Trump faced outrage over reports that he pressured a foreign leader in an effort to target a political rival.

"The fact is that the President of the United states, in breach of his constitutional responsibilities, has asked a foreign government to help him in his political campaign at the expense of our national security, as well as undermining the integrity of our elections," she said after the transcript was released Wednesday. "That cannot stand. He will be held accountable. No one is above the law."

Democratic presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the document a "smoking gun.

"If this is the version of events the president's team thinks is most favorable, he is in very deep jeopardy," Warren tweeted.

Giuliani, who serves as Trump's personal attorney, has long lobbied Ukraine to investigate Biden's call in 2016 to remove the country's top prosecutor, who at one point had been investigating a Ukrainian natural gas company connected to Hunter Biden.

Trump also told Zelensky the US has been "very, very good" to Ukraine.

"A lot of European countries are the same way, so I think it's something you want to look at but 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," he said.

Zelensky agreed, and told Trump the US is a "much bigger partner" to Ukraine than other European countries regarding sanctions on Russia, adding that he planned to purchase more Javelin missiles from the United States.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

The July 25 call, which took place one day after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about Russian interference in US elections, was also part of a whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, a source familiar with the situation previously told CNN, a revelation that has only raised more questions in the ongoing controversy.

Trump insisted Wednesday there was "no pressure whatsoever" in his phone call with Zelensky.

The President previously admitted that he delayed aid to Ukraine ahead of the call to Zelensky, when he pushed the leader to investigate Biden and his son's work in Ukraine, giving the excuse that he was waiting for European nations to contribute their fair share of aid and claiming there was "never any quid pro quo."

A senior White House official said the transcript of the call comes from Voice Recognition Software. There is a disclaimer at the bottom of the document that "A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion."

Zelensky also gave his permission for the transcript to be released, the White House said.

Whistleblower complaint

The administration is preparing to release the whistleblower complaint, sources told CNN, news of which first surfaced last week after House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, publicly demanded acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire turn over all relevant details related to the allegations he described as of "urgent concern."

Maguire will testify before House lawmakers Thursday.

Sources familiar with the case have suggested it includes additional allegations regarding the President's conduct beyond his comments on that call with Zelensky.

Criminal referral

The Justice Department also said Wednesday that it received a criminal referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General in late August to investigate whether the President's push for Ukraine to investigate Biden was a violation of campaign finance law.

DOJ declined to bring a case because it found that asking the Ukrainians to investigate Biden was not something of monetary value, and therefore did not run afoul of campaign finance laws.

The Justice Department's examination centered on the July call. Prosecutors interviewed White house officials involved in producing the transcript to establish it was a reliable record of the call. No other interviews were done. The FBI received a separate referral from the inspector general but deferred to the DOJ criminal division which was doing its analysis, according to a senior Justice Department official.

Barr was also not recused from handling the issue despite the fact that his name comes up in Trump's call with Zelensky.

In the ICIG's assessment of the whistleblower complaint, they noted that some "some indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the complainant in favor of a rival political candidate." The ICIG still determined that the complaint was credible.

Barr hasn't spoken with Trump on Biden

The Justice Department says Barr has not spoken with Trump, the Ukrainian government or Giuliani about the Biden issue.

"The Attorney General was first notified of the President's conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky several weeks after the call took place, when the Department of Justice learned of a potential referral. The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son," Department of Justice Spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement Wednesday.

"The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine -- on this or any other matter. The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine -- on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani," Kupec added.

Read the non-verbatim transcript below or read it here.