Sep 25, 2019

White House accidentally sent Democrats talking points on Trump-Ukraine call

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday emailed talking points to Trump allies on how to defend the release of a summary of the president's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The catch: The email was mistakenly also sent to Democratic lawmakers before the White House attempted to "recall" it — but not before Democrats tweeted it and sent it to reporters. The apparent blunder revealed the White House's strategy for combatting allegations that Trump acted improperly when asking Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden.

A group of GOP lawmakers met at the White House to coordinate a public defense for the president's phone call this morning, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told Axios' Alayna Treene.

  • It's not clear whether that meeting had anything to do with the talking points in this email. But some of the talking points match what Republicans have been saying on cable news and on the floor of chambers of Congress this morning.

Details: The memo claims there was no quid pro quo or anything inappropriate about the conversation between the two presidents.

  • It says that the idea that Trump asked Zelensky to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate Biden is a "myth" and that Trump only mentioned Giuliani after Zelensky brought him up.
  • It adds that Trump only mentioned Biden in one exchange.

"What the president actually talks about was entirely proper," the email reads.

"When a high-ranking U.S. government official, like then Vice-President Biden brags that he used his official position to derail an investigation in another country that could have impacted his son, it is appropriate for the President to suggest that the matter be looked into."

The memo adds that the real scandal is the leaks about the president's phone conversation.

  • It blames "'the Deep state,' the media and Democrats in Congress" for leaking confidential information damaging to national security "for political gain."
  • It also says the president only mentioned assistance to Ukraine to stress that other countries should be pitching in more to help Ukraine. But the president first publicly mentioned that as a reason for withholding assistance this week.

What they're saying: New Jersey Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. in a tweet called the talking points "complete Orwellian lies and toxic trash, but maybe you’d like to read them to appreciate their corruption!"

  • "I will not be using their spin and will instead stick with the truth," tweeted Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.). "But thanks though."
  • A GOP congressional source told Axios' Alayna Treene that the mistake was "definitely not helpful."

Go deeper: Read the full memo of Trump's call with Zelensky

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