‘Do Us a Favor’: Calls Shows Trump’s Interest in Using U.S. Power for His Gain

WASHINGTON — It did not take long for President Trump to see an opening during his July 25 call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the young new president of Ukraine.

Just after 9 a.m. in Washington, Mr. Zelensky was heaping praise on the American president for bragging about helping Ukraine in its yearslong war with Russian-backed separatists. “You are absolutely right. Not 100 percent, but actually 1,000 percent,” Mr. Zelensky gushed, according to a reconstructed transcript of the callthe White House released on Wednesday.

When Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine was almost ready to purchase American Javelin anti-tank missiles so it could better repel armored assaults by Russian-supported fighters, Mr. Trump pounced.

“I would like you to do us a favor though,” Mr. Trump responded, beginning a series of pointed requests. The president pressed Mr. Zelensky to use the help of Attorney General William P. Barr in opening an investigation of a company involved in the beginnings of the F.B.I. inquiry of Russia’s 2016 election interference. He also wanted a corruption investigation connected to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic rival.

Both held the potential to benefit Mr. Trump politically. And in case Mr. Zelensky needed reminding, Mr. Trump was quick to point out that “the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”

Mr. Trump’s suggestion that American law enforcement be directly involved and in contact with Ukraine’s government marks the first evidence that the president personally sought to harness the power of the United States government to further a political investigation.

The exchange, revealed in a declassified, five-page “memorandum of telephone conversation,” prompted an unidentified whistle-blower to accuse the president of a quid pro quo, trading a promise of foreign assistance for help in legitimizing an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory and gathering dirt on a political rival.

Mr. Trump insisted on Wednesday that the reconstructed transcript offered no evidence that he pressured Mr. Zelensky. Questioned by reporters before the two met at the United Nations, Mr. Zelensky said that “we spoke about many things and so I think — you read it — that nobody pushed me.”

Mr. Trump jumped in: “In other words, no pressure.”

But critics seized on the conversation as proof that the president violated his oath of office by coercing another world leader into supporting his personal political agenda.

The document provided a rare opportunity to review a private conversation between the United States president and another leader.

It included a note cautioning that it was “not a verbatim transcript” but was based on “notes and recollections of Situation Room duty officers” and national security staff. Voice recognition software was also used in preparing the document, which included long, direct quotations, senior administration officials said.

An American official translated Mr. Zelensky’s statements into English, officials said. The document included three ellipses indicating that part of Mr. Trump’s comments may be missing, though it is unclear how much was left out. Administration officials said the ellipses indicated when Mr. Trump trailed off or was inaudible.

Article URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/25/us/politics/ukraine-transcript-trump.html

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