Oct 5, 2019

Scoop: Trump pins Ukraine call on Energy Secretary Rick Perry

President Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump told House Republicans that he made his now infamous phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the urging of Energy Secretary Rick Perry — a call Trump claimed he didn’t even want to make.

Behind the scenes: Trump made these comments during a conference call with House members on Friday, according to 3 sources on the call.

  • Per the sources, Trump rattled off the same things he has been saying publicly — that his call with Zelensky was "perfect"and he did nothing wrong.
  • But he then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: "Not a lot of people know this but, I didn't even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquefied natural gas] plant," one source said, recalling the president's comments. 2 other sources confirmed the first source's recollection.

Why it matters: The president's remarks suggest he may be seeking to distance himself from responsibility or recast the pretext for the call. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.

  • Another source on the call said Trump added that "more of this will be coming out in the next few days" — referring to Perry.

Worth noting: Text messages released this week between Trump administration officials and Andrey Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, suggest that Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was a primary advocate for arranging the call.

  • There is no mention in the text messages of Perry playing a role in making this call happen.
  • Zelensky talks about buying American oil and wanting to work with the U.S. on energy independence, but Perry and LNG are not discussed in the 5-page memo of the Trump-Zelensky call released by the White House.

Between the lines: Perry, who is reportedly resigning by the end of this year, has become increasingly embroiled in congressional Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Perry's spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, told Axios: “Secretary Perry absolutely supported and encouraged the president to speak to the new president of Ukraine to discuss matters related to their energy security and economic development." 

  • "He continues to believe that there is significant need for improved regional energy security—which is exactly why he is heading to Lithuania tonight to meet with nearly 2 dozen European energy leaders (including Ukraine) on these issues,” Hynes added.

The White House acknowledged the conference call in a Friday readout that said participants included Minority Leader McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, and GOP leaders on key House committees — and that they discussed Friday's jobs report, the economy and concerns about Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

  • The readout makes no mention of Rick Perry.

Go deeper: Politico examines Perry's ties to Ukraine.

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to show that Kevin McCarthy is the House minority leader, not the majority leader.

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