Memo re­veals more of Trump’s Ukraine re­quest

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Noah Bier­man, Chris Mege­rian and Jen­nifer Haberkorn

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump di­rectly asked Ukraine’s pres­i­dent for a “fa­vor” while dis­cussing U.S. mil­i­tary aid to the be­sieged coun­try, ac­cord­ing to a White House memo of their July 25 phone call, sug­gest­ing a link that could be cru­cial to the Democrats’ fast-mov­ing im­peach­ment in­quiry.

The de­tails emerged as the Jus­tice Depart­ment con­firmed that the in­spec­tor gen­eral for the direc­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence had made a crim­i­nal re­fer­ral about the call, ques­tion­ing whether Trump had vi­o­lated cam­paign fi­nance law, but that depart­ment lawyers had de­ter­mined he had not.

Dur­ing the 30-minute call, Trump asked Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy both to in­ves­ti­gate for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, a po­ten­tial Demo­cratic op­po­nent in the 2020 elec­tion, and to look into Crowd­Strike, a cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm that did work for the Democrats in the 2016 elec­tion. The tech­nol­ogy com­pany is based in Irvine but Trump ap­par­ently be­lieved it op­er­ated from Ukraine.

Trump asked Ze­len­skiy at least five sep­a­rate times on the call to work with At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr, putting the na­tion’s high­est law en­force­ment of­fi­cial di­rectly in the House in­quiry into whether Trump abused his pow­ers and jeop­ar­dized na­tional se­cu­rity by push­ing a for­eign gov­ern­ment to dig up dirt on a U.S. pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

“What­ever you can do with the at­tor­ney gen­eral would be great,” Trump told Ze­len­skiy af­ter men­tion­ing Bi­den sev­eral times. The Jus­tice Depart­ment said Wed­nes­day that Barr was un­aware of Trump’s re­quest at the time and that he did not have any con­tact with Ukrainian of­fi­cials about the pres­i­dent’s re­quest for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Bi­den.

Trump also urged Ze­len­skiy sev­eral times to speak to Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani, Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney. Al­though he is a pri­vate cit­i­zen, Gi­u­liani has led the pres­i­dent’s ef­forts to get Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate Bi­den and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian nat­u­ral gas com­pany.

“I will have Mr. Gi­u­liani give you a call and I am also go­ing to have At­tor­ney Gen­eral Barr call and we will get to the bot­tom of it,” Trump said. “I’m sure you will fig­ure it out.”

On Wed­nes­day, a day af­ter House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DSan Fran­cisco, an­nounced the start of a for­mal House im­peach­ment in­quiry, the White House re­leased what it called a non-ver­ba­tim tran­script, five pages com­piled by note tak­ers in the White House Sit­u­a­tion Room, of the call be­tween Trump and Ze­len­skiy.

“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,” Trump said on the call, ac­cord­ing to the memo. “Bi­den went around brag­ging that he stopped the

pros­e­cu­tion — so if you can look into it ... It sounds hor­ri­ble to me.”

In 2016, Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den urged Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment at the time to fire a prose­cu­tor whom the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and its Euro­pean al­lies deemed soft on cor­rup­tion. The prose­cu­tor had in­ves­ti­gated the en­ergy com­pany that had hired Bi­den’s son, but that in­quiry had al­ready ended by the time the vice pres­i­dent got in­volved.

No ev­i­dence has emerged to show Bi­den sought to help his son, and nei­ther the for­mer vice pres­i­dent nor his son has been ac­cused of any wrong­do­ing.

Bi­den later spoke pub­licly about with­hold­ing U.S. fi­nan­cial sup­port for Ukraine un­less the prose­cu­tor was fired, but he did not brag about stop­ping a pros­e­cu­tion of the com­pany.

In a state­ment Wed­nes­day, Bi­den called it “a tragedy for this coun­try that our pres­i­dent put per­sonal pol­i­tics above his sa­cred

oath” and said the at­tempt to in­volve Barr was an “at­tack on the core in­de­pen­dence” of the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

Trump ar­gued Wed­nes­day that his con­ver­sa­tion with Ze­len­skiy was por­trayed as the “call from hell,” but “it turned out to be a noth­ing call.”

Trump and Ze­len­skiy held an awk­ward pub­lic meet­ing on the side­lines of the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly sev­eral hours later. Ze­len­skiy joked that it was bet­ter meet­ing on tele­vi­sion than by phone. He made clear he did not want to be in­volved in an­other coun­try’s demo­cratic elec­tions.

“We had, I think, a good phone call,” Ze­len­skiy said. “No­body pushed me.”

Ze­len­skiy looked at Trump with ap­par­ent shock when Trump urged him to work more closely with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, who seized Crimea in 2014 and has backed sep­a­ratists fight­ing in east­ern Ukraine. Trump also di­rected blame at for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for Rus­sia’s in­va­sion, lev­eled more ac­cu­sa­tions against Bi­den and re­hashed old charges about Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails.

The lat­est al­le­ga­tions clearly un­nerved Trump, who ap­peared list­less and ag­i­tated dur­ing a ram­bling 40-minute news con­fer­ence in the late af­ter­noon in which he took only four ques­tions and sug­gested to re­porters that they also seek records of Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s con­ver­sa­tions with Ze­len­skiy.

“I thought we won. I thought it was dead,” Trump said, re­fer­ring to the threat of im­peach­ment that hov­ered over him dur­ing spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tion over Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

Trump ac­cused Demo­cratic se­na­tors of also pres­sur­ing Ukraine to help with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but that sit­u­a­tion was dif­fer­ent. In May last year, three Demo­cratic se­na­tors wrote to the Ukrainian prose­cu­tor gen­eral to “ex­press great con­cern” that he may have stopped co­op­er­at­ing with Mueller.

The call memo shows Trump urged a for­eign gov­ern­ment to in­ter­vene in the 2020 elec­tion the morn­ing af­ter Mueller tes­ti­fied in Congress on July 24 about Rus­sian at­tempts to in­flu­ence the 2016 elec­tion on Trump’s be­half. Trump ac­knowl­edged this week that he held up de­liv­ery of nearly $400 mil­lion in mil­i­tary and State Depart­ment aid that had been ap­proved by a bi­par­ti­san vote in Congress to help Ukraine counter ag­gres­sion from Rus­sia. The aid was fi­nally re­leased this month.

Trump de­nied that the twom­onth de­lay in re­leas­ing the aid, which in­cluded anti-tank weapons and cru­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems for Ukraine’s em­bat­tled mil­i­tary, was meant to pres­sure Ze­len­skiy.

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