Newly released memo shows Trump pressing Ukrainian leader on Biden

Updated

The scandal that may very well lead to Donald Trump’s impeachment came into sharp focus several days ago when we saw reports that the American president pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to assist with the Republican’s re-election plans. Almost immediately thereafter, Trump insisted that his call with the Ukrainian leader was innocent and innocuous.

Indeed, Trump announced yesterday that he’d authorized the release of an “unredacted transcript” of the call, which he said would prove that it was nothing more than “a very friendly and totally appropriate call,” in which he asserted “no pressure” on his foreign counterpart.

This morning, the Republican added, “Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President?”

I have a very strong hunch that those waiting for an apology will be waiting a very long time.

President Donald Trump, in a midsummer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, asked him to look into why that country’s top prosecutor apparently had ended an investigation of the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

The entirety of the document is available online here (pdf), posted to the White House’s website. It is not an actual, literal transcript, but the memo purports to give a rough approximation of what the two leaders discussed during their 30-minute July 25 phone call.

And after reading it, I haven’t the foggiest idea why Trump or anyone in his orbit would think it’s good for him.

Some of the details that stood out for me:

* Trump twice told Zelenskiy that the United States has been “very, very good” to Ukraine, shortly before the American president asks for a political “favor” from his counterpart.

* Trump argued, “I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved.” He seemed to be referring to a prosecutor who’d been the subject of international condemnations for staggering ineptitude.

* Trump urged Zelenskiy to cooperate with Rudy Giuliani, who was trying to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. “Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man,” the memo quotes the American president saying. “He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.”

* Speaking of the attorney general, Trump also suggested Zelenskiy should coordinate with Bill Barr: “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 also appears to have referenced “servers” and “Crowdstrike,” suggesting he expected Ukraine to also help dig up dirt related to Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Far from an exoneration, the newly released memo points to an American president pressing the leader of Ukraine to work with his team on targeting a domestic political rival.

What’s more, this damaging revelation is only a piece of a larger puzzle – and the emerging picture may yet look worse if/when we see the complaint from the intelligence community’s whistleblower.

The case for Trump’s impeachment just got stronger.