Sep 25, 2019

Ex-Zelensky adviser says Biden case was precondition to Trump phone call

President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A former adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told ABC News on Wednesday that President Trump's desire for the two leaders to discuss a possible investigation into Joe Biden was a precondition for their now-infamous July 25 phone call.

"It was clear that Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case. This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood."
— Serhiy Leshchenko

Why it matters: The phone call has resulted in a formal impeachment inquiry being launched against Trump, despite the president's insistence that he did nothing wrong and that there was no "quid pro quo" involved in his request. On Wednesday, Zelensky said at the UN that he did not feel pressed by Trump and that he does not want to be involved in U.S. elections.

The big picture: The Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday corroborates the underlying claim by Leshchenko, as reported by ABC News. It states:

"[M]ultiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to 'play ball' on the issues that had been aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani."

Go deeper: Read the White House's summary of the phone call

Editor's note: ABC News has corrected its story to reflect that Leshchenko is no longer an adviser to Zelensky. We have updated our story accordingly.

Go deeper

Whistleblower alleges Trump abused power to solicit foreign interference

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky with President Trump. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The whistleblower complaint at the heart of a controversy over President Trump and Ukraine alleges that Trump used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election," and that Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr appeared to be involved in the effort as well.

Why it matters: The Trump administration's initial refusal to turn over the complaint is what led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's watershed decision on Tuesday to finally support a formal impeachment inquiry. Likely as a result of pressure from that announcement, the administration released both the complaint and, earlier in the day, a summary of Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 26, 2019

Ukrainian prosecutor named by whistleblower says Hunter Biden did not violate any laws

Photo: Angela WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

Former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko told the Washington Post on Thursday that he does not believe Joe Biden's son, Hunter, has violated any Ukrainian laws.

Why it matters: A whistleblower complaint released Thursday details how beginning in March 2019, Lutsenko floated allegations that Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in order to quash an investigation into a company called Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden served as a board member. Rudy Giuliani and President Trump capitalized on the allegations — which Lutsenko later walked back — in a campaign to get the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into Biden.

Go deeperArrowSep 26, 2019

July 26 memo claims White House official was "visibly shaken" by Ukraine call

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with President Trump. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

A day after President Trump spoke to Ukraine's president about investigating Joe Biden, the whistleblower whose anonymous complaint about Trump and Ukraine has set off an impeachment inquiry spoke to a White House official who was "visibly shaken by what had transpired," according to a reproduced version of a memo reported by CBS News.

Why it matters: The July 26 memo, which has been reported in bits and pieces over the past week, offers an early glimpse into an interaction with one of the White House officials who was so disturbed by the phone call that they felt compelled to share its contents with the whistleblower. Much of the information contained in the memo has been corroborated by the summary of the phone call released by the White House last month.