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Thu Sep 26, 2019, 07:58 AM Sep 2019

The Trump-Zelensky readout is a devastating indictment of our president

The memorandum on President Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a devastating indictment of the U.S. president. In it, Mr. Trump presses the neophyte Ukrainian leader to join with his personal lawyer and the U.S. attorney general in investigating his potential opponent in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. He does so after underlining the support the United States provides for Ukraine and after complaining that Ukraine has not adequately reciprocated.

Mr. Trump and his amen chorus claimed Wednesday that there was no “quid pro quo” in the call. In fact, the memorandum — a partial transcript compiled from the notes of aides — strongly suggests otherwise. Mr. Trump first makes a request for a political investigation in direct answer to Mr. Zelensky’s statement that Ukraine wants to buy more U.S. antitank missiles. “I would like you to do us a favor though,” Mr. Trump says, “because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”

An even more explicit exchange comes when discussion turns to Mr. Zelensky’s top priority at the time, which was obtaining a firm commitment to a meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House. The Ukrainian leader felt he needed a Washington visit to show his country and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin that he would continue to have U.S. support against Russian aggression, but Mr. Trump had been stalling in granting a date. Toward the end of the call, Mr. Zelensky raises the subject of a visit, then reiterates that “I also want to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation.”

Mr. Trump, who knew very well what Mr. Zelensky wanted, responds: “Good. .?.?. I will tell Rudy [Giuliani] and Attorney General [William P.] Barr to call. Thank you. Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call.” The implicit trade-off could hardly have been more clear.


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