Sep 25, 2019

The call heard 'round the world

Photo:Wayne Partlow/AP

Some members of Congress on Wednesday gained access to the classified whistleblower report hours after the release of a summary of the Trump-Ukraine phone call that led to Democrats launching a formal impeachment probe.

The big picture: There is no explicit Trump promise to Ukraine in exchange for dirt or investigations in the phone call memo released today, but it's easy to read it and understand why a whistleblower would have been concerned by the conversation.

  • U.S. presidents don't normally ask other world leaders to intervene in American politics — especially immediately after being asked about next steps for securing military aid from the U.S.

In the call, President Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to speak with Rudy Giuliani — who works for Trump, not the U.S. government — and Attorney General Bill Barr.

  • Trump asked for Ukraine's help on 2016 election interference: "I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it."
  • And he urged investigation into the Biden family: "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."

Sometime in August, the director of national intelligence referred a whistleblower complaint involving a conversation between Trump and Zelensky to the Justice Department to investigate as a possible campaign finance violation.

  • DOJ declined to further investigate, stating after a review that "there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted."
  • The Justice Department denies that Trump ever spoke with Barr about having Ukraine investigate Biden and says Barr has never discussed this matter with Giuliani.

Between the lines: Media reports last week said a whistleblower came forward in alarm after a "promise" was made on a phone call between Trump and a world leader, the WashPost first reported.

  • A promise isn't clear in the non-verbatim memo out today. But the whistleblower report isn't public and we don't know whether other calls or exchanges happened that are in the report.
  • We also don't know the extent of exchanges between Giuliani and Ukrainian officials — although Ukraine's president noted their existence in the call.

What they're saying:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "The transcript and the Justice Department's acting in a rogue fashion in being complicit in the President’s lawlessness confirm the need for an impeachment inquiry."
  • Trump on Pelosi: "As far as I’m concerned, unfortunately, she’s no longer the speaker of the House."

Go deeper: Read the memo

Go deeper

Memo: Trump asked Ukraine to work with Giuliani, Barr to investigate Biden

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen/The Sydney Morning Herald via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released a memorandum of a July 25 call in which President Trump pressed the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. The memo notes that it is not a verbatim transcript.

The big picture: After discussing the Ukrainian election, Trump told President Volodymyr Zelensky he should work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr to look into allegations that Joe Biden fired a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son. Trump has previously confirmed that he discussed these allegations against Biden — for which there is no evidence — with Zelensky. It was not previously known that Trump asked Zelensky to work with Barr.

Read the memoArrowSep 25, 2019

Trump-Ukraine call was referred to DOJ for possible campaign finance violation

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Sometime in August, the director of national intelligence referred a whistleblower complaint involving a conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the Justice Department for investigation as a potential campaign finance violation, according to a DOJ spokesperson.

"Relying on established procedures set forth in the Justice Manual, the Department’s Criminal Division reviewed the official record of the call and determined, based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted. All relevant components of the Department agreed with this legal conclusion, and the Department has concluded the matter. "
— DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec
Go deeperArrowSep 25, 2019

AG Bill Barr reportedly "surprised and angry" at Trump-Ukraine phone call

Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr was "surprised and angry" to find that President Trump had grouped him together with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani during a controversial July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, a source "familiar with Barr's thinking" tells the AP.

Between the lines: The anonymous leak to the AP suggests a possible effort by Barr to distance himself from the Ukraine scandal that ignited a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump last week. The whistleblower complaint at the heart of the scandal alleges that Trump solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election by asking Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, and that both Giuliani and Barr appeared to be involved.

Go deeperArrowSep 28, 2019